Buried Treasure

The strangest kitchen finds: Downsizing the most important room reveals wacky wonders

The strangest kitchen finds: Downsizing the most important room reveals wacky wonders

Marene, pie recipe, Florida Orange Meringue Pie
When packing up to move, I uncovered vintage postcards like this one. From Florida. With pie recipes. Photo by Marene Gustin

To prepare for an upcoming move, I am downsizing.

At first I was timid. Do I really want to send that size 2 tailored suit to Goodwill? Or do I want to move it, keep it in the back of another closet for another 10 years, and then throw it out?

But after a while, I was drinking bourbon and staring at the closet and thinking I should just donate everything I own and buy all new stuff to be delivered to the new place.

I have been going room by room, making weekly trips to the Goodwill donation center and Half Price Books and daily trips to the dumpster. It’s actually kind of liberating to get rid of all the crap I haven’t used in years.

And then I got to the kitchen. It was like a culinary archeological dig through my life in cooking. I am the Margaret Mead of menus.

 Does bottled water have an expiration date? I am conflicted about this.

The hurricane closet was the first to go, which clearly hadn’t been restocked in years. Cans of soup, tuna, chili and sardines, which had expired shortly after Ike, go in the trash. Does bottled water have an expiration date? I am conflicted about this.

Then there were cabinets of glassware. Clearly I never bought that set of eight Riedel wine glasses for that dinner party I never gave, because there are no more than two wine glasses that match. But there are something like 15 pairs, far more than I need.

There are also two sets of dishes, because I broke one plate in the first set and couldn’t get a replacement for it, so I bought a whole new set. And kept the others. Which, of course, I haven’t used in three years.

And there is an expensive sake set because I went through a period of sushi making and thought I had to serve sake correctly with each meal. I haven’t made sushi in six years.

And don’t get me started on the tequila years. Even though I haven’t drunk it (outside of a margarita) in years, I have a collection of shot glasses (of which almost none match) and for some reason I saved all the bottles. I have no idea why. Maybe I thought they would make nice vases or candleholders.

And then there are random gadgets. Like the garlic press in the drawer next to the pair of pliers I use to open plastic bottles of Topo Chico mineral water because (has anyone else noticed this?) the twist-off tops aren’t perforated anymore, and you can’t get them open without tools. But I don’t remember ever buying a garlic press, let alone using it.

 The new cookie sheet has never been near cookies, but it has been in close contact with homemade pizzas and bruschetta. 

Ditto for the melon baller. I did use the blender once, to make pesto, but I prefer my mortar and pestle. I like grinding and mixing things by hand. That may explain why there is no mixer in my kitchen.

But there are some really nice sets of Calphalon pots and pans and Henckels knives that are used regularly.

On the other hand, the new cookie sheet has never been near cookies, but it has been in close contact with homemade pizzas and bruschetta.

And then there are the cookbooks, some antiques, some from press people, one bizarre one from the 1950s I found at a book sale. But of course I never use them. If I don’t know how to make something I just Google it on my iPhone and carry that around the kitchen while I work.

And then there are these vintage postcards. From Florida. With pie recipes.

I have no idea why. The four I have, found in a box with dozens of postcards my late grandmother collected, all have different manufacturers and different fonts. Or typeface, I should say, because they look midcentury. Two are for Southern pecan pie. Although both have the same recipe, one has a photograph of the pie and the other a drawing. That one attributes the recipe to someone called Gran’ma Gold. Gran’ma gets no credit on the other recipe.

Another one is for Key lime pie, but the best-looking one is for Florida orange meringue pie.

I have no idea why these were popular in Florida in the 1950s and 1960s, and the only information I could find about them is that similar cards sell on eBay for $5 to $10.

But that orange pie looks delicious, and as soon as I can excavate a pie pan, I’m going to try it.

Florida Orange Meringue Pie Postcard Recipe

1 cup orange juice
1 cup orange sections, cut in pieces
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
3 eggs yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter or margarine (this tells you how old this probably is)

Combine orange juice sections, grated rind, sugar and cornstarch. Cook on low heat until clear. Add a little hot mixture to beaten egg yolks and cook about five minutes longer. Remove from heat. Blend in lemon juice, butter or margarine. Pour into baked pie shell. Be sure both filling and shell are both hot or both cold. Cover filling with meringue. Bake in 350 degree oven until lightly browned.