Lately, I’ve been fascinated by old homes. I’m not talking about the old adobes we have here in the Trans Pecos, I’m talking about old homes that date back to the 1700s, when America was “new,” and up to the very early 1900s at the youngest.
Don’t get me wrong, give me a Far West Texas 100-plus-year-old adobe Craftsman any day and I’m the happiest gal around. But there’s something about the old houses with the enormous fireplaces in the kitchen that give me all the feels.
I receive daily updates from a website that specializes in old homes around the world when they hit the real estate market. I spend most of my time on the internet looking at the homes and sending unusual or striking ones to my husband.
We sit across the room from each other, each looking at our own computer screen, and discuss the different architectural and design features. There are some spectacular old homes for sale for quite reasonable prices.
As I type this, my web browser has open links for houses built in 1860, 1870, 1798, 1799, 1795, 1900, 1760, 1815 and 1784 because I haven’t saved them to my bookmarks and they’re some of my favorites right now. If you want to get sucked into a wonderful world of old houses that are for sale, visit http://www.oldhousedreams.com, the best thing on the internet, in my humble opinion.
When I sent my husband the 1870 log house in a small town in North Carolina, we were almost ready to pack up and head east to the lush green that surrounded the charming log house with the modern amenities… until someone beat us to it and a “contingent sale” status appeared the second day it was on the market. We wouldn’t have really done it, don’t worry. But it was dreamy, for sure, complete with a fabulous kitchen and central air and heat. Be still, my heart.
Or maybe someday we WILL do it… I saved the photos of this place and just look at it and sigh. It’s on 6 acres, too. For waaaaaaayyyyy cheaper than ANY house in our area.
I keep handy a small set of cookbooks that specialize in Early America, Young Republic and Victorian America. They’re so fun to browse through, and the Early America and Young Republic books both feature kitchens with the massive fireplaces that were used for cooking, as well as heating the home.
One of the cookbooks says in the preface, “Today’s cooks do not have to begin by washing the salt from the butter, cutting sugar from the loaf and pounding it fine and sifting it, nor are most of the able to follow directions that assume the cook knows what to do when told, ‘add Milk [not saying how much] and put them in the Oven until enough [meaning done].’ Of course, if they are not enough, ‘do not take them from the Oven or they will be undone and unwholesome.”
“All of the modern conveniences” and “recently updated kitchen” are a few of my favorite phrases when it comes to the 250+ year old homes. As charming and lovely as the kitchen fireplaces are, I just don’t know that I would’ve been one of those women that took great joy in keeping the fire going all day and night, and always having a kettle of something cooking.
I love my modern conveniences and recently updated cooking spaces, but the charm and history of the really old homes tug at my heart every time. It’s probably a good thing I live in the 21st century as far as my appreciation for convenience goes, but I love how so many of the houses that are for sale still have the enormous fireplaces intact.
Below are pictures from my dream 1870 log house… I don’t miss the in-the-kitchen fireplace here…
Below are pictures from the books. I wonder what’s cooking in those big ol’ kettles?
While the sweet little cookbooks contain a number of recipes I’d never use because they’re too “fancy” (that means “unappealing to me”), like fried smelt or boiled ducks in onion sauce, many of the desserts and cookies are timeless.
Here’s an old recipe and a modern recipe for one of my favorite cookies, Coconut Macaroons. And luckily, no matter which recipe you decide to use, you don’t have to bake these in the fireplace.
Coconut Macaroons – Two Ways to Make Them
- Old Fashioned Coconut Macaroons
3 egg whites
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
3 to 4 cups fine grated coconut
Beat the egg whites till very frothy, then beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is very stiff. Snip or chop the coconut very fine. Stir the coconut into the egg-white mixture to form a very stiff paste. With floured hands, very gently roll a tablespoonful at a time into small balls. Place a few inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan at once. Makes about 4-1/2 dozen.
- Modern Coconut Macaroons
4 egg whites
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. In a bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, add the sugar and mix well. Add the coconut and mix with a spoon. Using a small ice cream scoop (or rounded spoon), place mounds of cookie dough onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned on top. Cool before eating.