Eat Retro: Blessed Be Ugly Food!

It wasn’t until I had immersed myself in Depression-Era and WWI cook books in 2015 that I developed the “courage” to create simple dishes with quality ingredients that fall out of range of preconceived ideas of good taste. Good home cooking to me has evolved to mean honest, sometimes quirky, unpretentious fare that takes the pressure off to audition for a show on the Food Network. This humble dish may not be Instagram-worthy, but so what?! It was a wholesome, healthy, thrifty delicious dinner made from food that in the past would have been discarded.

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Out Picking: Antique Embalming Fluid Crates from Boston!

This past Sunday on the way to church Wayne and I stopped at the flea market, or rather, he sat in the car to read the New Yorker as I made my rounds. I had decided earlier in the week that the antique primitive jelly cupboard that I had repurposed into a shoe closet in my home office is too glorious to not be in my kitchen. I simply needed to find three antique crates that would stack nicely to coordinate with the others I had to take its place.

While I think it’s a sin to pray for material possessions, especially luxury wishes, the flea market fairies with whom I had shared my wishes delivered in a very crafty way! The price was right and I carried my new treasure all the way back to the car which, true to a flea find, was dusty and a bit dirty. It left some light soiling on my chinos as it brushed up against my legs as I walked. Yikes! I quickly decided it was simply a patina on my pants and it was fine for church.

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Let’s Dish: Sustainable Soap

When I gave up Facebook for Lent (I’m keeping my Facebook account because I use it to log into other accounts but am hardly on it now), I was more present. I began to pay attention to waste in our house and wondered how we could become more kind in our consumption…and cleaning. I was no longer OK with buying bottled dish soap (we do ours by hand) and hand soap due to the plastic waste. I had read online that some people were using Dr. Bronner’s Castile bar soap for both their dishes and hands, but Dr. Bronner’s contains palm oil. Palm oil and its derivatives are in almost everything including and especially soap which isn’t always clearly labelled. Why is that of concern? The cultivation of palm oil is destroying rainforests and killing orangutans and other wildlife. I’m also not sure I trust “sustainably sourced” palm claims. So what would be the best choice?

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My Repurposed Antique Cedar Chest Coffee Table

I had purchased our previous coffee table at an estate sale about ten years ago straight from an in-law house with early 1970s furnishings. I liked it at the time (never loved it) up until this past weekend after I visited an acquaintance living in a 200 plus year old home. I loved the look of an antique blanket chest as a coffee table which they had in their living room, so much so that when I got home I decided I wanted a “new” coffee table. Antique blanket chests can be quite expensive and I don’t see them often at estate sales. Then I remembered the cedar chest in the sunroom!

When I bought it (also at an estate sale and it was packed with vintage linens) it was covered with watered down white paint, so we had covered it up and been using for storage and gardening supplies. Inspired, I went into the sunroom with a scouring pad, sponge and soapy water.

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Recipe: Traditional Maine Baked Beans

Baked beans and church bean “suppahs” are a staple of Maine’s food culture. They are healthy, wholesome, nutritious, economical and delicious. Using a few simple inexpensive ingredients you can make a large pot of beans to serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

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Beautiful Maine Made Cotton & Wool Blankets

Many of my long-time readers know how much I love vintage linens and changing up our bedding to create different looks. I broke from tradition last fall and bought a new (as in not new old stock but NEW new) wool blanket online that was made in France. Other than being a drab color like most every wool blanket on the market it seemed nice enough until I realized that the French on the label said it had been mothproofed! I do NOT want to have a chemical-treated blanket against my skin! I sent it back.

Wayne and I took a ride up to Freeport last weekend to buy him a few things at Brooks Brothers. Afterward we stopped in the Maine Woolens outlet. I had never been in it before and assumed they were selling ubiquitous made in China blankets perhaps with added kitschy lighthouses or starfish on them. I was not anticipating the wonderful surprise inside!

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Be a Rebel. Eat a Potato!

I’m naughty, according to many “experts”. I eat a lot of potatoes! Potatoes have an unscientific and undeserved bad reputation among many who recoil at consuming carbohydrates. When I wrote my first vintage diet book I received some feedback from people stating that the wholesome foods I mentioned in the book, like potatoes, make people fat! They will give you diabetes! (Fact: the American Diabetes Association states you CAN have potatoes even when you have diabetes!)

The humble potato, instead of being branded as bad for you or any weight loss program, should have rock star food status. It’s subversive yet secretly healthy! Potatoes in raw form are inexpensive, simple to prepare, delicious and readily available at most grocery stores. They are also a Maine diet staple. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

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My Outdated Vintage Eat-In Kitchen

We live in a culture of RENOVATE! UPDATE! BE ON TREND! with the specific dictates changing frequently. We’re confronted with TV shows where a perfectly serviceable kitchen is perceived as some sort of ugly moral failing followed by gleeful smashing it to pieces (instead of salvaging and donating it) to make room for whatever their sponsor/producer/unchecked budget is providing them. Online “influencers” show off their HGTV-worthy homes that are often renovated with a high frequency.  It can be easy to feel like there’s something wrong with good enough if it’s not fashionable.

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Vintage Recipe: Fish Friday New England Chowder

Thanks to the Maine Rebekahs, whom I consider to be some of the greatest New England home cooks who have also provided almost 100 years of recipes, you can make a winning, traditional New England fish chowder. I’ve adapted this simple, frugal 1920s recipe to make it meat-free since New England fish chowders almost always contain pork in addition to seafood. Wayne said that he wouldn’t have noticed its absence based upon how flavorful this is. Truly it’s so easy to make yet it will produce a chowder that will make you feel like a seasoned New England cook.

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