What became of flour sifters?

or a pastry cutter?  What became

of home-made bread spread

thick with home made butter?

Homemade cakes and pies and such,

alas! I cry forlorn

what became of those old days

when store-bought stuff was scorned?

What became of biscuits, muffins,

crispy apple strudels?

How I yearn for doughnuts, crullers,

and my grandma’s homemade noodles;

I remember sweet aromas

from homemade apple pie,

as it view its frozen sister,

I repress a sigh..

modern times and modern tastes

are here to stay, they say,

yet how I wish for just a sniff

of that old fashioned way!

Sandra Lee Smith

There is a TV show I enjoy watching with Ralph Story, called

“Things that aren’t here anymore” – it’s on cable and the

things  being discussed are all places that used to be in and

around  Los Angeles–so I don’t have any idea if the things in

question, being all about greater Los Angeles, would  be

broadcasted in other cities or states or even other countries.

But every time “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore” is being re-

played on our local KCET network, I start thinking about other

things–particularly kitchen things–that aren’t here anymore.

(or can be found in antique stores).

I think of rolling pins and yes, flour sifters–I have two of each

and the handles on the very old rolling pins have been

breaking off.  If it has red or green wooden handles, they are

pretty old; there was a time when some cookie cutters had

either red or green handles, undoubtedly from the same time

frame. (although considered collectibles, I actually use all

of my kitchen equipment – so sometimes, things do break).

Years ago–around the middle or late 1980s, I think,  I saw a

recipe box in an antique store in Ventura…it captivated me; it

was wooden with decals pasted on the box–but the most

fascinating thing about that recipe box was that it was filled

with someone’s  recipe collection. Bob & I would go up to Main

Street in Ventura every chance we got — and I didn’t buy that

recipe box when I first saw it–maybe 3 or 4 visits later. It was

$11.00 and I was as thrifty then as I am today–eventually I

bought the recipe box  and then began wondering if there

were more filled recipe boxes “out there”. Well,

there were and I ended up buying quite a few but I am still

reluctant to spend over $10 for an old recipe box as much as I covet them.

Here’s a curious thing – I think recipe boxes are an American

product despite going back decades.  Years ago, I discovered

that my Aussie penpals were unfamiliar with recipe boxes; I

bought a box and filled it with recipe cards for one of my

Aussie friends who enjoying cooking Tex-Mex recipes. Over

time, I discovered that recipe boxes were frequently a food

company promotion–I have boxes  from Land O Lakes,

Campbell Soups, Rice Krispies, Coca Cola, Bisquick, Wisconsin

Cheese, SW Foods, Quaker Oats, Sun Maid Raisins–to name

just a few.

The collection of recipe boxes has grown to more than two

hundred boxes–most are filled, most are filled with cards I

collected or typed up when I was feeling ambitious–but my

favorites are the boxes someone else took the time to fill up.

The box I love the most isn’t a standard recipe box; its a large

cardboard filing box that I discovered at an estate sale

that Bob & I attended one Saturday morning. The cards are all

handwritten in a beautiful  penmanship with emphasis on

recipes typically found in greater Los Angeles. I think I

paid $3.00 for it.  Everyone who knows me knows about my

interest in old filled recipe boxes and I’ve acquired quite a few

this way. A friend of my friend Mary Jaynne was telling me

about her friend’s mother passing away – I couldn’t help but

ask “Did she have a recipe box?”  – not only did she have a

recipe box, she had some cookbooks autographed by chef

Mike Roy (with whom her mother was acquainted) –which I

was delighted to receive– another time a girlfriend at work

gave me six recipe  boxes that had belonged to her aunt.

What makes these boxes so fascinating to delve into?  Well, for

openers, you don’t   know what you may find inside. One box I

acquired was  obviously very old, recipes on cards were faded

and clippings were old and falling apart.  I think I figured out

that it was from the 1920s.

Another kitchen product I am fond of are old, glass measuring

cups–at one time  in the somewhat distant past, amber

measuring cups could be found–possibly in boxes of  a

particular brand of detergent.  I googled glass measuring cups

and was astounded by the prices — starting around ten or

twelve dollars and going up to $100 or more. Not just

measuring cups. Those old glass juicers fetch a pretty penny

too.  I have a couple of these.  Maybe its just  as well

that almost all of these desirable things are out of my price

range – if money were no object, I would be buying a lot more

of them (oh, heck, if money were no object I would remodel

my house to make enough room for all of my collections)

Sandra Lee Smith

Poem originally published in 1974 magazine called “Looking Back”

Updated July 29, 2018

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