Our Favorite Finds from Nathalie Dupree’s Estate Sale
Cookbook author and Southern food evangelist Nathalie Dupree recently departed her downtown Charleston home with her history professor husband for a move to Raleigh, NC. The famous foodie left in her wake so much stuff to be picked through by local food nerds that we asked ourselves repeatedly, as we waded through old perfume bottles and stacks of magazines “what did she take with her”? As is often the case when someone opens up their personal belongings for public sale, most of it was – sorry – junk. But we did ferret out a few fun (and possibly useful) treasures from the morass.
Card Suit Cookie Cutters: We love an old-school aluminum cookie cutter. They hold a lot more character than the plastic kind that pop up in grocery stores every holiday season. And speaking of, we love that these cookie cutter shapes don’t bind them to any particular holiday. Card suit cookies could be a fun dish to bring to a game night, or can be iced in colors to suit any time of year or occasion, from St. Patrick’s Day to a baby shower.
Candle Sticks: Lots and lots and lots of homecooked meals in the past year have left us searching for ways to elevate the mood and make dinner seem like more of a special occasion rather than something to unconsciously consume while we watch old 40 Rock episodes. These understated glass holders I found in Nathalie’s front parlor struck me as a perfect, minimalistic way to add a little ambiance to my table, and at $2 for the set – including the candles – seemed like a great deal. I’m looking forward to switching out the tapers for a blush-colored set to match my decor.
Turkey Frills: Our oddest find was sitting in Nathalie’s (oddly tiny) kitchen, in a plastic baggie labeled with a $1 price tag – a bag of loose turkey frills. Most millennials, like myself, might remember these from cartoons rather than real life. They’re the type of thing you would expect to see on a roasted bird from an old Warner Brothers short, or in a Dr. Seuss illustration. They’re definitely old-school, and while I don’t think I’ve ever encountered them on an actual cooked bird, I recognized them on sight. A bit of internet research reveals a few different possible uses – to keep the carver’s hands clean while cutting the drumstick away from the body, or to simply “dress up” a roast a bit. Our Brooklynite foodie brother, for whom we bought the bag o’ frills, swears up and down that they’ll be all the rage again by 2024. In an age of dining experiences designed to be photographed by influencers, we believe it.
Dainty Glassware: We noticed this pair of rosy glasses on the estate sale’s online auction before the actual house opened up, and kept our fingers crossed that they wouldn’t be snatched up before we arrived. An even smaller, dantier pair was available for purchase as well, but as we don’t drink much sherry, or take many dainty shots, we opted for just the single set. We love the color (surprised?) and can’t wait to bust these out once Dry January is done.
Books Galore: Nathalie’s house was a booklover’s dream. While the expected cookbooks definitely dominated, we spotted several sections of shelf devoted to political non-fiction and biographies, in addition to baskets of spiral-bound recipe books from churches and women’s groups across the south. We nabbed an old tome titled Dr. Chase’s Last Complete Work, dated 1888, which turned out to be an odd compendium of diseases and their recommended remedies (such as “Hot Vapor Baths” to cure rabies), fairly standard recipes (though mostly for desserts, which seems odd for a medical book), and suggestions for what to feed invalids (among these lurk such dubious concoctions as “oyster tea” and “toast tea”). Dr. Chase’s strange old book is definitely our favorite literary find, but we also snatched up some works by other notable foodies of Nathalie’s day, like Bill Neal’s Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie and Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook.
Despite the duds that required sifting through, Nathalie’s home proved to be an embarrassment of riches as far as foodie finds go. If you missed out on this opportunity to rifle through Southern food history – no need to fret! Simply join us on one of our Downtown Charleston Culinary Tours to learn (and taste!) all you can devour of Southern culinary culture.