No, this is not one of the Oprah-esque lists where I tell you about A Few Things I Love, which turn out to be $400 slippers and a box of 22k gold toothpicks. Like this.
The My Favorite Things of the title is in reference to a book written by the late Dorothy Rodgers, wife of the late Richard Rodgers (of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame). I picked up this book at our town transfer station (which we call The Dump), where locals drop off trash and recycling, including unwanted books. These books go into a pleasant little shed called the Book Barn.
The Book Barn at the dump is the source of many, many great finds. The advantage of picking up books at the dump (besides the fact that they are free) is that so many are out of print. I would otherwise never come across a book like Dorothy Rodgers’ My Favorite Things. Published in 1964, it is so of its moment that it could never be recreated now. The book’s very appeal—its era-specific trendiness (a selling point at the time of publication) means that it seemingly stopped being relevant long ago. But this book is more than the sum of its Mad Men-era parts. It’s clear from reading it that Dorothy Rodgers was one of those sorts of women who, in any civilization, is a class act. The tips and tools she utilized for decorating and entertaining may belong to an time long since past (thanks for breaking America, hippies!), but they are really never out of style.
Part I is called “The Things That Go Into a House” and Part II is called “Entertaining at Home”. Literally everything you need to know about leading a civilized domestic life is contained in Parts I & II.
Another recent dump find was the Meals with a Foreign Flair cookbook, published by Better Homes & Gardens in 1963. I probably will send it back to the dump from whence it came. The food styling and photography is fascinatingly grotesque, the title faintly offensive in a PC sort of way. Also, it stinks. I’m actually wheezing as I type this, due to the mold spores emanating from the book. I am very likely the first person to crack open its pages in approximately six decades and am paying the price.
Still, it was worth a look, so I picked it up from the Book Barn, taking a swift tour around the world through the culinary lens of mid-century home cooks, who were interested in moving beyond hot dogs and towards foreign foods such as cappuccino. An admirable impulse.
After a few Meals with a Foreign Flair I ended up back in Dorothy Rodgers’ well-appointed living room. Mrs. Rodger’s home is a place to which I will return again and again, perusing My Favorite Things while enjoying Menus with a Sense of Balance.