China · Cooking · Kitchen Culture · Kitchenware

Rock the Retro

FullSizeRenderWhen I moved back to the United States three years ago, I had to make some tough choices about what was going to go into the three suitcases I got to bring with me.  Though I love cooking and the “food” experience, very few of my kitchen items made the cut.  I left behind, among others, my Aeropress coffeemaker and beloved immersion blender.  Only four cookbooks made it back Stateside intact.  The rest were ruthlessly rooted through by my roommate and I as we cut out any recipes we thought we may ever make and tossed the dross.  (When you’re trying to get four profoundly formative years of your life down to 150 pounds, you can’t afford to be kind.)

An often overlooked side effect of spending your late twenties having this life-changing experience in the developing world is that you get back to the U.S. with like $600 in your bank account–a bunch of money for China, not a bunch of money for the States.  So I had to go about rebuilding my life on a shoestring.

You don’t think about how all the stuff you’ve amassed in your kitchen cost an accumulative bundle because most people’s kitchens are slowly populated with every spoon on the planet over a course of months or years.  (Lots of people also get cool things called “wedding showers,” of which I didn’t have the benefit, but I digress…)

So what does a poor, at the time only partially-employed teacher do?  She becomes best friends with her friendly neighborhood Goodwill, that’s what.

This is the way I got my dishes, silverware, mixing bowls, casserole dishes, pans, pots, mixing spoons, storage containers and measuring spoons–in fact, as I catalogue my kitchen in my head, I can think of only three or four things that were actually new when I bought them.

It means I saved a bunch of money.

It also means my kitchen paraphernalia has a strongly ’70’s gold vibe about it.

I’m now in a much more stable financial place, and could probably afford to upgrade a lot of my Poor Girl Kitchen.  I could replace my mismatched kitsch-fest with something chic.  But I realize I’ve grown attached.

Nobody else has my old, white-with-royal-blue-trim Correllware.  I never have to worry about anyone “accidentally” taking my aqua-blue Pyrex bowl home from a potluck by mistake.  I am the only person I know under 60 who can claim her kitchen counter is graced by a vintage, 1980 CrockPot with orange flowers on it and a bread making canister.  (Yes.  I can, in fact, make bread from scratch in my CrockPot.  You can be jealous.  It’s okay. I understand.)  I also don’t know anyone else who can claim her salt and pepper shakers were made in West Germany (back when West Germany was still a thing…)

My kitchen has history.  Generations of cooks and bakers are represented in my kitchenware–my 1950’s Pyrex, my 1960’s flour and sugar canisters, my 1970’s Tupperware, my 1980’s CrockPot, my 1990’s lemon-shaped egg timer–all the cooking fads, all the kitchen disasters, all the families who gathered around tables and stood around  while people washed dishes, are all represented and remembered my little kitchen.  I like the one-of-a-kind uniqueness of it.  My kitchen has the “be your own person” personality we always tell kids is important but so often shy away from in our adult lives.  And I think that counts for something.

So you can keep your fancy-shmancy, polished silver coffee storage containers.  I like the green pepper and squash design on my old glass one just fine.

11 thoughts on “Rock the Retro

  1. So fun. When I was just starting out and very, very poor, a friend on a summer job invited me to come to his grandmother’s house. She had just died and had lots of stuff they were going to have to get rid of. He told me to take whatever–I took most of it. Then, 20 years later I was going through one of those museum houses that give tours to see how people lived at the turn of the century (1900s) and in one of the cupboards was the same set of glasses I had taken from my friend’s grandma’s house. I count all those things now as invaluable antiques. May your precious antiques live on forever!

    1. I love it! I feel like it’s the “funny duck” things in any house that make it into a home. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your mutual experiences!

  2. I love everything about this post: your humor, the fun tone. I’d love to sit in this kitchen and take it all in.

  3. What a fun way to fill your kitchen shelves! I’m that way about cookbooks; I love finding one in a used book or antique store that has notes and splatters in it. The dirtiest pages have the best recipes. 🙂

  4. Those retro canisters are beautiful. Nothing wrong with them. Enjoy the old, used, and antique stuff that can fill your kitchen. It’s more fun than matchy-matchy.

  5. Love the canisters. I have my mom’s Corningware baking dishes. It’s good to have pieces that have a history. Such a fun post.

  6. I love RETRO and I am jealous. I am an aeropress user as well. (Did you get a new one?…..I need to know.) There is something about kitchen utensils and such that carry history through the years. This was a delightful read. My kitchen props have history too when you spend as much time in the kitchen as I do.

    1. I replaced my Aeropress with a standard drip coffeemaker. (Even though the Aeropress makes the best coffee basically ever, it cannot be negated that the automatic timer feature on my current model means I can stumble out of bed and RIGHT to the coffee…!)

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