A Treasured Discovery


A few years ago I moved into the home of my partner’s grandmother after she passed away. It was decided that the home would remain in the family so in 2004 we happily moved in. Built in 1952, the house is quintessential California 1950s, through and through. It’s also been home to only one family and is where my mother-in-law was raised. Sentimental value and memories are tucked into every nook and cranny in this house, and I love it. Adam’s grandmother Patricia lived through the depression, and like many people her age, she saved every last bit of anything she ever had. This made renovation and clean up a challenge, but it also revealed tons about a family that lived in one home for over 50 years. There were plates and dishes from the 50’s, fondue sets and artwork from the late 60’s, furniture and pottery from the 70’s and masks, paintings, artifacts and shells from all over the tropics where they traveled,  Not much seemed to change after 1978, prompting me to call this home “the house that time forgot.”

But I’m certainly not complaining. I live for the styles of the 1950s through early 1970s, and certain pieces of furniture here in the house make me drool. Having moved in with furniture from the 50s myself, I was happy to have found a small bit of decorating harmony.

Perhaps some of the most interesting things Grandma Pat left were recipes. She was never an avid cook, but the few things she did she did well. I found her handwritten recipe for orange cookies in a drawer, and we regularly bake them using oranges from her backyard. These cookies are so incredibly delicious and unique, and I’m sure to share the recipe here when citrus season arrives.

Just recently I discovered a small wooden box hidden in the back of a closet. I thought I had already gone through the last bits of hat boxes, old shoes and bon voyage cards from cruises past, but somehow this box escaped me. Opening it up I discovered small index cards separated by categories, and after rubbing my eyes I discovered they were all recipes.


It turns out my discovery is a 100-year old recipe box, assembled and printed in 1906 in Rochester, New York. For those of you reading from Asia and Europe, you may scoff at the idea of 100 years being old and I certainly would too, but here in the relatively new United States this is considered ancient! Especially in our disposable, toss-after-use culture. It’s sad but certainly true.

The box is filled with pristine cards of recipes broken into the standard categories of fish, eggs, breads, canning and beverages. There are the favorites of the day like pimiento salad and mint lemonade as well as Lobster a la Newburg and Sour Milk Gingerbread.  In fact, there are tons of recipes that I can’t wait to try, and not only will I satisfy my appetite but also give myself a small history lesson in what was considered good eating during the turn of the century. If it’s the small things in life that count then this newly discovered wooden box is certainly full of living. I’m so very happy I found it.


In the next few weeks I’ll be testing and creating recipes from “The Brown Box”.  I’ll post them and see how they turn out. Which makes me ask: will people be blogging about a Rachel Ray cookbook in 100 years?  I shudder to think.


  1. says

    Wow, what a find! I can’t wait to see the recipe for Sour Milk Gingerbread, that sounds so delish! Is pimiento salad anything like “pimento” cheese? And how glorious to have oranges in your backyard. The closest thing I have is a Whole Foods a block away.

  2. says

    That is a really cool find for both you and Adam. Does he cook? Or has he lost all of his “down time” with you to the kitchen and the brown box?

    I seriously want to hear the orange cookie recipe. Seriously. Okay. Seriously.

  3. says

    oh matt! i’m so seriously all aflutter with nostalgia and the sweetness of someone’s legacy. i ove stuff like this so much, and finding things like this are certainly a treasure. you’re so fortunate to have found all of this; i know if anybody would cherish this, it would be you!

  4. says

    Wow! What a great find Matt. I sure am looking forward to check here for those recipes you’ll be testing! I love bottles and those bottles on the photos are such treasures.

  5. says

    A century of recipes! I used to work for a lifestyle museum and a find such as this would get me all excited. Can’t wait to see how those recipes turn out.

  6. says

    Matt: Glad you like things from the 50s in your home…when I come back to LA and need a place to stay, in a couple of years, I’ll fit right in!

  7. says

    I found a old tin recipe box in the house I moved into last year… but as it has no familial connection to me, I promptly put it on a shelf and forgot it… I’ll have to dig it back out and rifle through the recipes. Can’t wait to see what you’re going to cook!

  8. says

    With the recent-ish birth of our son, the idea of cooking and food legacies has been on the minds of my dear S and myself. There is such a wealth of social and family history to be found within a treasured recipe file, no? I eagerly look forward to your experiments!

  9. says

    That is really incredible, what a great find. My grandmother has given my mother her recipe box and although not as old a “find” it still has great, “secret” recipes. That my mom will never make. Cause she has a microwave. I’m excited to see what you reveal to us all from your find.

  10. says

    Hi Matt,

    I was just saying to my husband that I haven’t met a foodblogger yet who likes Rachael Ray. And, you’ll appreciate this, he said, “Who?”

    Love your site…I check in everyday. Nicky

  11. Annie says

    Please oh please,won’t you share the recipe for orange cookies? I would love to make them with the oranges from my mom’s two trees. Please??? Thank you… :)

  12. Helena says

    Oh, Matt, you’re a lucky man, you’ve just find a treasure!

    I’m looking forward all these old recipes, I bet they’re all wonderful. I like very much this kind of things that carry a little (or big!) history behind.

    I’ll keep reading your blog to see the results of your new-old recipes.

    I’m a new reader of yours and I wanted to say hello, congratulations on your nice pics and posts.

    Helena (Spain)

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