The weekend before last, I managed to find not one, but two vintage Easter cake tins-one lamb, the other bunny. I'd wanted a lamb one for years, but that Saturday the thrifting gods decided my time had come and presented me with both. Inside the lamb tin the previous owner had left a note in penmanship that looked so much like my own it startled me, "Do not use with cake mix-neck breaks EVERY TIME!"
I stood at my sink examining the note, and thinking how many times I've made similar notes in cookbooks, noting changes, additions and omissions. There have been so many times I've thought, "I should place a note with this so Danny will know how to use the cookie press, pasta maker, or what have you." Thrifting is an interesting hobby because you can't really know the previous owner's life except in a few cases where you meet the children selling the items, or it is a piece of vintage with an established provenance, but you can certainly get a sense of the person from the notes they leave.
My husband didn't grow up with much holiday goings-on as his parents weren't terribly interested. Coming home with not one, but two animal shaped Easter cake tins is rather foreign to him. He thinks it was an absence of religion on his parent's part, but I suspect it was more an absence of whimsy. An animal shaped cake would just be too tacky for my mother-in-law. She might bake a beautiful layer cake infused with five kinds of floral syrups and piped within an inch of its life, but a lamb-shaped cake would be too much. I get it, really I do.
My mother-in-law brought us several household items when we moved to Nebraska, and they were downsizing to an apartment out west. I find similar notes in the things we received such as how the meat grinder was used mostly for cheese when she was growing up in Pennsylvania, and how to secure the clamp. There's a recipe in the pasta maker box, but there's also paperwork from the military that they must have been required to fill out when leaving for another post and packing up their belongings to be shipped overseas. If I didn't already know the story it would be a fascinating thing to find in a box at a thrift store.
One of the most interesting finds was a box of post cards years ago, that were sent from a father to his daughter on his business trips that spanned about ten years. Being able to read all the stories about the towns he visited (he sold large pipe organs to churches and orchestras) and how he felt some people "didn't deserve an organ" really gave me a fascinating insight into these people's lives. I'm not sure how anyone could have got rid of those cards, though for all I know she might have hated her father. That's the thing of course, we can't really know the lives of the people that leave these items, and our sense of storytelling wants to adjust everything to a happy ending.
I do wish cake-tin person had left a recipe that would work well with the tin, but I suppose if I find one, that can be my contribution to the item's future. They're nice cake tins, I think they will be around for a good long time.
Have you ever found anything in a thrifted item you found fascinating?