When I visit back east, one of my favorite things to do is to go antiquing because there’s a ton of old stuff and it’s usually pretty cheap. Old barns and wooden outbuildings line the country roads, usually branded by a painted sign reading “Antiques” or no sign at all. The dusty shelves are filled to the brim with milk glass vases, rusted Pepsi Cola signs, and wooden decoys. I have to admit; I love the bouquet of floor boards, dampness, old linens, and the pages of books which haven’t been flipped through in years. I don’t know that I could ever get tired of that smell.
One antique store I wandered into was in Ayden, a small Eastern North Carolina agriculture town, home of the best barbecue joints in the state (Seriously. Bum’s Barbecue is to die for, and the hot banana pudding will send you straight to Heaven). This particular store was indeed, an old outbuilding with a rusted tin roof, out behind a one story brick home with a tire swing hanging from the limb of an old pecan tree.
The man behind the counter was a middle-aged bearded fellow with a long beard and glasses, and he was wearing a Black Sabbath tee shirt. His co-worker, Pumkin, was a senior chihuahua with runny eyes and a high pitched bark. She was sitting in a pink leopard print bed on a glass display case, filled with vintage trinkets. An odd couple? Perhaps.
In one of the display cases, I found an antique cookbook from the 30s in damn-near perfect condition. It’s an old Virginian cookbook called The Williamsburg Art of Cookery, and it’s compiled of recipes dating back to the 1700s. Interestingly enough, the font and author’s voice is written in Early Modern English, with long,medial “s” littered throughout the pages. For all of you nerds out there, that’s when an “s” in the middle or at the beginning of a word looks kind of like an “f”. It’s kind of tough to read for that reason, but I had to have it.
This recipe is from that cookbook. I should tell you, there aren’t a lot of veggie recipes in the pages of old. Our use of vegetables have definitely evolved over the years, straying from stewing and pickling to dinner salads and vegetable entrees.
Baked tomatoes with bread, onions, butter, salt, pepper. It’s like bruschetta without any herbs and it screamed for basil, and cheese. I wondered, why the bread? I found out the answer soon after I baked my take on this recipe. Tomatoes generate a lot of liquid when they’re baked. I’m talking soupy. In this particular recipe, the bread absorbed the water but didn’t get too soggy.
- 3 large tomatoes
- ½ red onion, minced
- pinch of sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- Peel the tomatoes. Cut in small pieces, season with a little sugar, salt, pepper, and finely minced onion. Grease a baking dish and line it within slices of buttered bread. Pour the tomatoes in the dish, crumbling up a little bread on them. Dot the top with butter and bake.