Gastro-Antiquing at Abigail Page in Hudson, WI

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Antiquing has acquired a reputation as a silly pastime for people with too much disposable income: a way to spend far-more-than-garage sale prices for items that would have qualified as junk 50, 25, or a mere 10 years ago.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

This isn’t entirely unfair. Stumble into the wrong shop, and you enter a land of $10 teaspoons and rickety wooden chairs that go for $200 and up. Stumble into the correct shop, however — as we did on a recent day while driving home from a trout farm — and you will be astounded by the entertaining and reasonably priced bounty available to you.

Here are six recent gastronomic finds — all priced at $5 or less — from the remarkably well-stocked and welcoming Abigail Page Antique Emporium in Hudson, WI. It’s worth noting that we left a lot of good stuff behind, so if you dig the sort of goodies listed below, darken their door and bring a 20 or two. That should be all you need.

A Kaukauna Klub Crock

“FOR APPETIZERS SALADS DESSERT etc.” says the perky little 1950s-style chef crudely stenciled onto the side of this vintage cheese spread crock. If you’re a Wisconsinite and a cheese lover, you’ve got to grudgingly acknowledge the critical role played by process cheese in the state’s industry… and the legitimately retro kitsch cheerfulness of the crock makes it a great pen holder / notecard holder / miscellaneous office junk holder. It’s local. It’s cheese. It’s awesome.

Knox On Camera Recipes: A Completely New Guide to Gel-Cookery

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

“Gel-Cookery?” you ask. “What is this… some fabulous new cooking style from the future?” No, it’s a terrible old cooking style from the past, premised on the idea that all food should be rendered in some form of gelatin mold, whether it be sweet or savory. Fruit Nectar Salad makes a certain amount of sense, but even in 1962, the Lobster Salad (recipe below) must have struck sensible gourmets as a bit of a culinary stretch. Right? Sticking lobster meat into Jell-O? This cookbook (price: $2!) also features a Tuna Mold… “Ideal for meatless meals!”

National American Legion Convention (Minnesota, 1959) Souvenir Platter

How about this: $4 for an antique platter featuring a walleye, a pheasant, the Minnesota state flower, and a bunch of cities including Fergus Falls, Montevideo, New Ulm, Owatonna, and Hibbing. Good condition. Holds up to four drinks, which can then be ferried out to your astounded and impressed BBQ guests.

This is the sort of thing that would be tempting to the serious Minnesota gastronome, if new, at $10. And yet… it was just laying on top of a pile of random old cookbooks. Priced at less than half that. Find of the day.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Quicker Ways to Better Eating: The Wesson Oil Cookbook

Fans of clip-art will love the treasure trove of vintage-looking stuff offered at bargain prices in the world of gastro-antiques. The Wesson Oil Cookbook (1955, priced at $1) is chock-a-block with beautiful, neatly coiffed, industrious housewives rendered in sparkly pink and black two-tone renderings, thinking up amazing new Wesson Oil-reliant menus for their husbands and families, surrounded by a cornucopia of fresh ingredients and, well, Wesson Oil.

Plus: Gotta love any cookbook with a chicken pot pie recipe. That’s one dish always better when made at home with love. And, yes, Wesson Oil.

Home-made Jellies Jams and Preserves: Farmers’ Bulletin No. 1800 USDA

“Sugar preservation of fruit has been for many centuries an important culinary art,” begins this US Dept. of Agriculture bulletin, demonstrating that in 1938, even government bureaucrats could write with an elegance and sense of focus that largely eludes the modern scribe.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The battered black and white pamphlet ($1) contains a wealth of common-sense canning information supplemented by charts, tables, and scientific insights.

Recipes are simple as the dickens, but alluring — see Currant and Red Raspberry Jam, below. And there are even conserves and fruit butters included — hallelujah!

The most interesting aspect may be the “Score Cards” on the back of the bulletin for assessing, in a quasi-objective fashion, the quality of canned goods being sampled.

Score Card for Home-Made Jelly

Package — glasses of uniform size, clean, and neatly labeled — 10 points

Colors — characteristic of the fruit, bright, and (with some kinds of fruit) translucent — 20 points

Consistency — holds its shape when turned out on a plate, but quivers when moved. Tender, cutting easily with a spoon, and holding sharp edges. Free from crystals — 30 points

Flavor — characteristic of the fruit. Free from excessive sweetness, bitterness, or overcooked flavor — 40 points

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A Completely Strange Ice-Cube Tray

The one attempt we made at making ice with this resulted in one big block. Clearly a bunch of individual hexagonal cubes is the desired end result. There are a bunch of valid reasons why they don’t make ’em like this anymore. But, gosh. An interesting apparatus — it breaks down into a tray, and a bunch of squiggly pieces of metal that rotate freely on a handle that acts as a lever to remove the squiggly bits from the tray. Assuming it hasn’t all frozen into a solid block.

Lobster Salad
reprinted from Knox On-Camera Recipes
4 Servings

1 envelope Knox Unflavored Gelatin
½ cup water
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp Tabasco
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp minced onion
½ cup diced celery
¼ cup chopped green pepper
¼ cup chopped pimiento
1 cup chopped cooked lobster meat

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

1. Sprinkle gelatin on water to soften.
2. Place over low heat and stir until gelatin is dissolved.
3. Remove from heat and stir in salt, lemon juice, and Tabasco. Cool.
4. Stir gelatin mixture into mayonnaise. Chill to unbeaten egg white consistency.
5. Fold in remaining ingredients.
6. Turn into a 3-cup mold or individual molds and chill until firm.
7. Unmold on serving platter and serve with salad greens and mayonnaise or salad dressing.

Currant and Red Raspberry Jam
reprinted from Home-made Jellies Jams and Preserves

Wash and drain the fruit. Remove the currants from the stems.

Combine 2 pounds of currants with 1 pound of red raspberries, and crush. Add an equal weight of sugar.

Heat slowly until the sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.

Continue stirring while cooking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the jelly stage is reached.

Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.

Abigail Page Antique Emporium
503 2nd St
Hudson, WI 54016
715.381.1505
HOURS:
Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
Sun 12pm-5pm

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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4 Comments

  1. I want the Kaukauna Klub crock!

  2. Stevie 03/22/2010

    I just wanted to note my Hudson pride.