A Treasured Discovery

by Matt on August 29, 2006


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.