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.


  1. Just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed reading through some of your blog posts this evening. Last night my husband and I sat down to go through large piles of old magazines. His pile was computer magazines he collected from his childhood and mine was old Horticultures and Northern Gardeners my dad gifted me when we bought our South Minneapolis house 3 years ago. My husband had just finished telling me all about computers of the past when I started reading an article you wrote about keeping a garden journal. In the piece you mentioned something about not using a computer to journal because you didn't know how to use yours. I looked at the date of the magazine and thought, "1995. I wonder if she ever learned to use a computer. Let's google her and fine out." Which lead me here to your blog.

  2. Hahaha! Thanks so much for sharing that. I still don't use a computer for my garden journal, and was just sitting out on the patio this evening making a few notes in a handbound journal I made several years ago. Lovely of you to stop by!

    1. Mine is a boring old spiral notebook. Maybe I will upgrade someday!


Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts.