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Past Times Newsletter - December 2000
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles, and Fine Art
Welcome to Past Times!
IN THIS ISSUE:
o Hearth to Hearth: Pie Crusts - From Meat to Fruit by AliceRoss of the Journal of Antiques and Collectibles
o Collecting Vintage Clothing and Accessories by Kakki Smithof KIS Originals
HEARTH TO HEARTH:PIE CRUSTS - FROM MEAT TO FRUIT BY ALICE ROSS
OF THE JOURNAL OF ANTIQUES AND COLLECTIBLES
American as apple pie?
The origins of pie are not American, but British. The crust
(wheat flour and lard), the apples, butter, and even bread crumb
thickeners are intrinsically English. The sugar, cinnamon and
nutmeg came from the far flung British Empire. The pie form
itself was an English specialty. Early English cookbooks
featured pie recipes both sweet and savory. The first American
cookbook, by Amelia Simmons (1796), offered fourteen recipes.
Meat pies started it all off centuries earlier as tall,
straight-sided constructions with sealed-on floors and lids,
originally called "coffins." They held assorted meats and sauce
components. The crust itself was the pan, its pastry tough and
Dropping costs of sweetening and spices led to sweet pies.
Colonial America followed English precedent again, as maturing
orchards and abundant wood fuels kept home-bake ovens active.
All fruits in season, some vegetables squash and pumpkinand
basic custard and cheese mixtures went into pies. Regional
American variations included molasses and vinegar fillings.
Crusts of chicken or veal pot pies might be laced with mashed
potato. Coastal kitchens produced pies of fish, clam, oyster,
Pie-dishes were sometimes made of tin, probably in recognizable
slant-sided form. Others were of redware, sometimes with only
slightly rounded concave cavity and no angled sides, perhaps a
soup or dinner plate. Top and bottom crusts were rolled and
crimped together to build up the sides, essential for holding in
the juices. Angled-sided yellowware, agate, and tin pie pans
American pies were baked in the family's brick oven, set into
the oven after the bread came out. Pie baking transferred to
the woodstove innovations, and flourished. Now was born the
great farm tradition of eating pie at each meal. Old timers in
Vermont talked about one pie per person per day; and the
Mid-West earned a reputation as "the pie belt."
Pie making accessories were now on the rise. Yankee ingenuity
came up with myriad variations on earlier pie stamps, crimpers
and jaggers, and pie birds, useful for beautifying or releasing
undesirable steam. Wire pie lifters allowed the cook to remove a
hot pie from her oven without burning herself; wire racks aided
in cooling and storing, and pie safes stored the goodies (and
other provisions) against flies and mice!
By the twentieth century, "pie tins" were cheap and common. Some
had a rotating pin to release the bottom crust. One of my first
acquisitions was a "Ladies Night at the Movies" giveaway. Some
bakeries sold pies in deposit tins, some with an embossed logo,
easily worth the deposit and now collectible.
For complete text of this article, including color illustrations
of pie-making collectibles and a recipe from the first American
cookbook (1796), please visit your source for information on
collecting at The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles.
I collect linens, antique clothing, ladies vanity items, yard
long prints and more. When asked to write an article on antique
and collectible accessories as gift items, I tried to think of
what I might say to express my knowledge on the subject and
realized that there are many, many more collectors who know vast
amounts more than I do on the subject. I then decided the best
thing I might tell you, is what I love about a beautiful antique
piece of clothing, or a purse, for example, be it beaded, mesh,
petit point or some other type of needle work.
To me vintage clothing and accessories are like a lovely piece
of jewelry or a work of art that has been skillfully
handcrafted, whether it was by an individual or a group of
craftsmen who constructed it. Vintage clothing and accessories
were usually hand made with fine and intricate detail that would
be unimaginable today. The time intensive hours it must have
taken to stitch each bead into place, fill in a petit point
canvas or paint the delicate designs on tiny mesh.
My imagination then takes me back to the person who may have
purchased, made or given these fancy reticules to a loved one.
Who wore these gems to the opera, a cotillion or even did the
Charleston in them? I love knowing each and every one of the
pieces in my collection had a "previous life" and that I can
enjoy their beauty and help to preserve them into the next
A ladies vanity item such as a beaded purse, fancy perfume
bottle, a silver make up mirror, or comb and brush set makes a
great gift as they're often beautifully monogrammed, and they're
usually something the recipient would never buy for herself.
If there's a woman in your life who you think might appreciate
such an item, we invite you to see some of the gems that Ms.
Smith offers in her online shop K.I.S. Originals.
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