Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nostalgia and Other Uses for a Vintage Book of Recipes

An old book called Tea-Room Recipes caught my attention at an estate sale last winter, and when I looked inside and saw that it was published in 1925 and its authors were from Minnesota, I decided I had to have it.

When I got it home and perused the recipes, I decided that the content wasn't for me and proceeded to take it apart to make it into a hand-bound journal with a coptic stitch binding. I added a few embellishments from a tea packet to give it some color, plus my linocut of a teapot, and a snippet from the book's index.

Then I came across a little column in our local paper in which restaurant critic Rick Nelson was asked, "If you could pick one Minneapolis restaurant from the past that you would like to revisit, what would it be?"

And he replied, "It might be Richards Treat. It closed three years before I was born, so I have no firsthand knowledge of the restaurant. ... It was owned by two remarkable women, Lenore Richards and Nola Treat."

I thought those names sounded familiar, so I looked at the book again and realized that they were its authors.

The Minnesota Historical Society published an article about the women and their eponymous restaurant in the fall of 2007, and a page of comments offers many fond memories of the once-iconic establishment.

Another website, called Restaurant-ing Through History, shows what a charming place it once was (the building was torn down in the 1950s).

And my mother, a dietitian who studied at the University of Minnesota, remembered the restaurant because it was run by two professors of dietetics from the U of M. But she had never actually eaten there.

Now I wondered if I had been too hasty in taking the book apart.

So I looked at some of the recipes again.


People often wax nostalgic about the way something was in the past, like Grandma's cooking or a long-closed restaurant that had been much loved in its day, and it's easy to forget that the generations preceding us were a little too enamored of what was thought at the time to be the modern thing, like using canned vegetables and puréeing everything to mush. And flour. Lots of flour, whether it makes sense to use it or not.

For example, as you can see in the above spread from the soup chapter of the book (click to get a larger view)—split pea soup that uses only 2 cups of peas for 18 servings and then calls for flour to thicken it, and a cream of spinach soup that starts with a purée of canned spinach.

So, what to do with those pages whose recipes I don't care to use?

I'm sure I'll think of something.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How wildlife rehab, craft beers, and a hand-bound journal are all connected

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a representative of Duluth-based Wildwoods Wildlife Rehabilitation center to see if I would consider donating an item for their silent auction fundraiser, which is happening this Saturday evening, June 7.

After a quick check to assure myself that it was all legit, I said I'd be happy to send along one of my respite boxes (aka meditation kits/mindfulness boxes, or cool stuff in a box for grown-ups), as requested.

But then I said I thought it would make sense to include some boxed sets of my animal notecards, which have animal facts on the backs. So I offered to include a few of those, too.

And then when she said the event included tastings of craft beers, I said, oh, well, then I should send you a journal made from a craft beer box. I didn't have one from the specific brands she knew they were featuring (mostly because many of our terrific craft beers don't yet have bottling operations, so, no six-packs). But I rummaged through my collection and found a box from Lift Bridge Farm Girl, a Belgian-style pilsner from Lift Bridge Brewing of Stillwater.

I thought it would be appropriate because Duluth has a lift bridge too. Funny thing is, I don't think we've actually tried this beer yet ourselves; I must have pilfered the box from one of our local sources  of beer, wine and other libations—they make the empty six-pack boxes available for people to buy an assortment of single bottles from a variety of craft beers, and sometimes I rummage through the boxes and ask if I can take a few home.

I used the secret Belgian binding, which allowed me to incorporate more of the design by using the black-and-white strip on one side for the spine. (And it is a Belgian-style brew, after all.) I used the other strip and a piece from the bottom, which credits the sources of the photographs, to make tags.  

All the cover pieces are glued to thick fiber board for sturdiness. I cut pieces from a vintage map of Minnesota for the end papers (featuring Duluth, of course).

And I put my trademark library pocket inside the back cover, with a knock-off of a library card inside, providing the details of this journal (how many pages, the materials used, etc.)

As I was packing everything up in a medium Priority Mail box, I decided to toss in a few packs (sets of 18) of my bookplates, which also feature some of my animal drawings.

And all of that is now on its way to Duluth for the event this Saturday. 

Best wishes!