Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cooking Floyd: Hoosier Daddy?

 I came home from work one day to find this sitting in my kitchen:

This is a Hoosier Cabinet.  Probably the single most useful and efficient piece of kitchen furniture I've ever owned.  It's also a fine example of a rare beneficial result of the combination of two of my Dad's worst quirks.

The back story from my Mom was that my parents were attending an estate auction.  She was a collector of antique kerosene and oil lamps and there were some likely examples going up for sale.  During their pre-auction inspection they came across this cabinet: original finish, original hardware, original accessories, original everything, intact and in excellent working condition.  A serious find.  Dad fell in love with it for reasons unknown.  He wasn't a cook beyond the occasional batch of sour cream cookies, something he called "Cinnamon Flop", and mastery of the outdoor grill.  He had no use for it.  Mom and Dad wandered back to their seats as the sale started.  In the course of things, the cabinet came up for auction before the lamps.  Dad started fidgeting while the bidding commenced.  Then he couldn't stand it any longer, his hand went up and he was off.  Now to say my Dad was a bit competitive would be an understatement.  To say he wasn't stubborn, an outright lie.  There were many local collectors and dealers in the crowd that day but Dad was determined to have that cabinet.  The price continued to rise and Dad continued to bid.  Mom started nudging him.  Dad kept bidding.  Mom smacked his shoulder.  Dad kept bidding.  Just as Mom shouted at him to stop, the auctioneer cried,"SOLD!".  Mom gave Dad her disgusted look.  "And just where are you going to put that?" "Well, I'm going to put it in the kitchen." "No, you're not, it won't fit." "I'm gonna put it in the, uhm, I'm gonna put it... I'm gonna give it to Rebecca!" And that's how I ended up with Daddy's Hoosier Cabinet.  They never did disclose the final bid.

The reason I'm talking about the cabinet today is because Joel over at WellPreserved is exploring Pantry Organization, a worthy subject.  I've finally been able to return my cabinet to it's intended use as a bake center.  Let me take you on a tour of it

The top half of the cabinet is removable.  It's clamped on with C's that allow the enameled work surface to be slid back for storage or pulled out for a large work space.  There's the two upper shelves for storage of all the small items and ingredients related to baking.  The door on the right has a rack perfectly sized to hold small extract bottles.  Below the rack is a small divided bin to hold little things, like my tiny saffron boxes.  On the door itself is an old print of period home tips and tricks. The left door has a spring-loaded cookbook holder and two hooks to hold something like a towel or hot pads.  The lower area is equipped with a large round sugar bowl and square wavy glass canisters original to the cabinet.  The door that encloses it is a rolltop.  The large bin to the left is a flour canister.  Upright, it's a sifter.  It swings down for scooping and loading the flour.  I've had a twenty five pound bag of flour in there and I think there was room for that again.  On the floor below it is a metal pan to catch the excess flour.

 Stored below the work surface are a removable pastry board and cutting board.  Beneath those a large divided drawer pulls out.

To the right of this drawer, two more drawers are stacked to hold implements and supplies and the bottom drawer opens to reveal a large tin bread box.  The cupboard on the left contains pull-out shelving (wish my kitchen built-ins did!) and a storage rack on the door.  All-in-all, an admirable bit of kitchen design!

It seems that either through genetics or by osmosis I've inherited my parents penchant for auctions, flea markets, and rummaging through garage sales and second-hand stores.  I've seen many of these for sale.  Few in the condition or with the amenities of this one, but extremely useful all the same.  Usually they are a bit smaller in height and width but all of them have a similar set up and most of them have the cool flour bin.  Some of them have been restored to pristine condition and are quite pricey but more often than not I've found them in solid but "shabby" condition for a low to reasonable price.  A little elbow grease, some new hardware, a coat of paint would make this a beautiful and useful addition to someone's kitchen.  Michael's always afraid I'll bring one home just for the pleasure of fixing it up!

Hoosier cabinets don't have to be limited to use as a baking center.  The first use I had for mine was storage of cookware and canned goods.  In another house it displayed linens, dinner- and glassware.  The next move it housed my cookbook library.  Now it's come back into it's own.

I came home from work one day to find this sitting in my kitchen....

Stay tuned for Part II!


  1. That is a fine cabinet! My heart beat a little faster than normal when I was reading about the flour bin with the built in sift. I could use a few of those in my house! I have never heard of a Hoosier cabinet.

    Cute titles to your blog entries! Good luck and happy blogging! (I read your other entry on the apples. Glorious.

    Sal Vanilla (Chow)

  2. Love the story - and the flour sifter... I`m sure I`d find a way to empty the contents all at once (joking) but the risk would be worht it - it`s awesome!

    Thanks for the link too :)