Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Amazing Finds

Being a grad student, I already don't make a lot of cash. But saving up for a wedding and having a fiancee who is enrolling in fall classes means that money right now is a bit tight.

That doesn't mean, however, that we want to spend our weekend unwind time staring at the walls and discussing the finer points of Top Ramen (which we don't eat, btw... although I did see Alton Brown use them once and I've been tempted since). We may not be the kind of couple who has ever gone out all weekend and closed the bars down, but we do like to create our own adventures be it visiting museums and exploring national parks or trying out a new crab cake recipe. Needless to say, we haven't made crab cakes lately and every time I order them at a restaurant I wish I hadn't. That's a story for another day.

Lately, we've dusted off what was more of a hobby for me in high school and has only been practiced sporadically since. I am talking about thrifting.

Way back when, I frequented thrift stores near and far to find cool silk ties for cheap (pre-Avril, thank you), vintage purses, and anything with cool fabric that I could rework into whatever my imagination came up with. Over the years, and especially after going to FIT and getting into knitting, my fiber tastes changed which led to a sharp decrease in thrifting activity. I am the first to admit I'm a bit "snobby" about some things, although I kind of hate that it's put that way. I feel that I have simply learned a great deal about my hobbies and why some things are more valuable than others and I appreciate that information. Regardless, I rediscovered thrifting recently as I moved into a bigger space and need some new furniture and have some more room for kitchen accoutrement.

I wanted to share a bit of my haul today because I was really just too excited.

I'll introduce my favorite find from this past weekend by saying that Jared is a collector of books so when we enter a store he makes a beeline for the books and I head straight to housewares. Don't get me wrong, I check out the books and occasionally pick up a few, but I rarely find much of what I'm looking for. For those of you unfamiliar, thrift store book areas tend to be full of grocery store romance novels, Danielle Steele, B-list celebrity autobiographies, passe diet books, and books people were forced to read in school. Luckily for Jared, his love of philosophy and both Russian and post-modern literature means he finds a fair number of books. As for me, I don't find much Jane Austen. Anyway, we were in the Salvation Army which keeps its book section in its own room making it feel very much like a book store. Jared was looking for extra copies of The Brothers Karamazov, I was browsing cookbooks and several other people were checking out the shelves.

Then I saw one.

"Oh wow. No way. Jared! I found a James Beard! This is mine!"

I excitedly scooped up the copy of The New James Beard. Then, right next to it on the shelf, I saw another. And another. And another!

"What? No way! There are FOUR James Beard books here! Beard on Bread is here? I was just reading about this! Jared this book is classic! I'm getting all of these. I just can't believe this!"

So there I was, giddily chattering on and on; I'm sure the other patrons thought my mother did not teach me how to behave. She did! I promise! I just got carried away. I also scooped up a Food and Wine book, which looks good so far. But the Beard cookbooks! I'm still thrilled. I bought them all plus a few pieces of glassware for $6.

Here's a closeup on the illustrated covers from Beard on Bread and Beard on Pasta. I just love them.

I admit I have only made one thing so far, which was Linguine with Tomato-Shrimp Sauce. I didn't take any pictures and to be honest, I really didn't follow the whole recipe. What I love most is he encourages the reader to go with the flow and try new things. Essentially, I reheated some of my usual tomato sauce, threw in some shrimp, extra garlic and a bunch of red pepper flakes and tossed it with pasta. And it was delicious. I would have never tried it but it was fantastic and so fast. Trust me, if you find a copy of James Beard book buy it. Do not let it go. The man is an icon for a reason.

In the coming weeks and months I look forward to pouring over these gems and making many of the recipes such as filled doughnuts, basil lasagna, German fried potatoes, etc.

In the meantime, I highly suggest you do what my clever fiance did and search for thrift stores in your area and check out one or two each week. We live in a large metropolitan area that's also very transient so our list is lengthy but it gives us something to look forward to each and every weekend for months to come.

Other fantastic finds this week:
  • $0.25 Tart pan
  • $6.00 Brand-new OXO salad spinner
  • $0.90 Pair of small round vases
Happy Thrifting!

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