We were in Stuart, FL this past weekend and as always, I went looking for the nearest antique and thrift stores. A couple of blocks from where we were staying in historic downtown Stuart, we came across “Woodmen Hall Antiques” located at 217 SW Akron Ave., Stuart, FL 34994.
The building itself is an antique. The owner, David Stein, a very kind and knowledgeable older gentleman, was more than happy to share a bit of the building’s history. It was built a hundred years ago, between 1913-1914, as a meeting place for the local chapter of “Woodmen of the world.” This was not quite a labor union, but rather more of a brotherhood of sorts for local lumberjacks and woodworkers.
Should they become injured, or should one of them pass away, this is where they would meet to discuss how the injured or late lumberjack’s family could be taken care of. Raising money amongst themselves, it was an organization whose main purpose was to look after and protect each other. From 1930 until 1959, it later served as the local office for Southern Bell. At one point, during a labor protest in the 1950’s, he showed me were a protester placed two sticks of dynamite and blew the front of the building clear off its foundation!
The store has some very interesting and beautiful pieces, along with a collection of very well-priced artwork. I bought a few pieces of art, but it was his old books that really peaked my curiosity. I’m an avid collector of antique cookbooks, and these days it’s not often that you find any which date back further than the 1940’s or 50’s. So, you could imagine my surprise when I found a 1933 copy of “The Congressional Cook Book.” Although a great find, this was not the best thing that I took home from this gem of a store.
When I went to pay, David took the book and then went to the back of the store. He returned with another book and said, “If you’re taking the congressional cook book, you should also take “The White House Cook Book” as well! He then handed me a 600 page book in very good condition, considering it was published in 1916! I paid $23.00 for both.
This book is a true piece of our country’s history. It contains recipes on everything from turtle soup to honey wine, cold cream to cough syrup, furniture polish to blackberry brandy. It explains how to host a state dinner, and even how to stop a severed artery from bleeding until a doctor arrives. It’s a cookbook, but it’s also a handbook for life in the early 20th century. Need to know how to get stains out of a marble bust, or how to clean your feather boa? You’ll find that in there as well.
I LOVE books like this! As with every antique cookbook I acquire, I look to see if there are any old handwritten recipes or newspaper clippings tucked inside. This one had several! So today, I’ll share a recipe for true “Macaroni and cheese” from the book, and one for “Bananas baked with bacon” from a newspaper clipping I found inside.
Going through this book, you can see that that life was so wholesome back then. Sure, it involved a lot more work, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, in the fast paced world in which we all now live, we just don’t have the time to spend 4 hours baking and icing a cake, or boiling down calves’ feet to make the base for jellies and jams.
Yet, I will say there is an unbelievable sense of accomplishment and something to be said for taking the time to make something the “old fashioned way”…and in case you’re wondering, yes, it does taste better!