A Few of My Favorite (Kitchen) Things: Vintage Cooling Racks

Okay, Gentle Reader, we have reached that part in the summer where all the past oversights and (possible) errors in judgment have come back to haunt one, with a terrible vengeance. For example:

Oversight: I never did get that bed of beets weeded and mulched.

Terrible Vengeance: Where are the beets? Didn’t I plant beets here? 

Oversight: I didn’t haul a load of (quite necessary to keep the weeds down) wood chips to mulch the flower beds around the house, until (gulp!) yesterday. 

Terrible Vengeance:What happened to those flowers I planted? (wading through the weeds, poking, searching, weeping softly)

Oversight: I didn’t realize that the tomato plants in the hoop house would grow twice as big as the ones planted outside–with no signs of stopping! Fully twice as big, horizontally and vertically! Wait until you see, Gentle Reader (I’ll post pictures next week, humbling as it will be for me).

Terrible Vengeance: Gulp. And Yikes! And Whooooaaaaa baby . . .

Basically, this is my garden motto from here on out:

What lesson do I re-learn at this point every summer? Here it is: when you are an enthusiastic (read: you plant too much, every stinkin’ summer, without. fail.) gardener, you should weigh your choices carefully. Because once every plant that you’ve ebulliently planted is thriving and growing and producing fruit and so forth, you won’t have time (much, anyway) to re-plant beds that you are beginning to regret. There may be just enough time to pull the large bed of purple broccoli, for example, that all went to seed while you were in St. Louis visiting your adorable grandson for three days, but probably not enough time to replant and mulch and baby a bed of new carrots, for example, instead.

There are only so many hours in a day, and only so many warm days. This is not rocket science.

For example: an entire, large bed of basil--four kinds of basil--why, exactly??

For example: an entire, large bed of basil–four kinds of basil–um, yeah, basil is great, but–why so much, exactly?? Amy?

Even as I write this, I’m gritting my teeth and thinking . . . I’m going to go pull up all that gone-to-seed purple broccoli and toss it to the chickens–they will love it!!–and I’m gonna plant carrots today in that space, dadgummit! And I probably will. But anyway. Actually, it’s time to start working on my fall garden, anyway. (More about that next week.)

So . . weeds are a problem here, because of a perfect weed-growing environment: cooler temps for summer (so far) and more than usual rainfall too, for summertime. And the constant and cheerful busyness of everybody at our place. There’s just not time to pull all those weeds. 🙁 But I’m not gonna complain. I’m just gonna keep pulling weeds when I can, and eating lovely stuff out of the garden. Try to stop me!  😉

Plus. We’re going to start working on our firewood supply today. At the end of a typical winter, we usually have–oh, a cord or maybe half a cord of firewood left over, but this year–after an unusually cold winter, and pretty lightweight, paperesque, supply of firewood–we don’t have a stick left, which means we need to take the putting up of firewood plenty seriously this year. I don’t fancy being pathetically chilly all winter long. I don’t know how much we usually put up (I know you’re gonna ask): I would guess 5 or 6 cords. That’s a lot of firewood to cut and split and haul and toss (we don’t stack, though someday I aspire to have firewood stacked as lovely as my mum’s firewood stacks). (Another post for another day).

So. It’s Friday, so that means I’m going to toss another favorite kitchen thing your way, before I go start firewood-tossing. Three weeks in a row, Gentle Reader! Boom!

So here is it: these are an inelegant yet quite necessary part of our collection of favorite baking tools: cooling racks. If you do any baking at all, you know what happens when you leave your bread or your muffins or even your cookies on the pan to cool: they will get soggy bottoms. And nobody likes a soggy bottom, am I right? I think that would make a dandy click-to-tweet, don’t you? Let’s make it so:

No soggy bottom on this spinach feta bread!

No soggy bottom on this spinach feta bread!

Baked goods really need to have good air circulation as they are cooling. You can buy these racks quite inexpensively at many places, online or otherwise. You can buy tiered cooling racks, too, with two or three tiers all hooked together, but these have never interested me, as we bake on a rather (cough) large scale. You can buy them on Amazon.com, of course . . .

Or you can pick them up at your local thrift store, probably. That’s what I like to do. When I see them (usually they cost no more than a quarter or two) I snatch ’em up, baby. So I have quite a collection, and we cover a small table with them every week for our farmer’s market baking day. I love the irregular shapes and sizes.

Here are some of the racks in my collection. That bitty round one at the bottom is my favorite. And those sweet peas are from my hoop house.

Here are some of the racks in my collection. That bitty round one at the bottom is my favorite. And those sweet peas are from my hoop house. Aren’t they pretty?

Here’s a close-up of the sweet peas. I’ve got the most gorgeous stand of sweet peas in my hoop house. You just wouldn’t believe them! And they smell so (wait for it) sweet.

Have you ever seen anything so dainty and so pretty?

Have you ever seen anything so dainty and so pretty?

My mum has a favorite cooling rack, too. It’s very old, and round, and a bit decorative, and she lost it for a time. She mourned that little round cooling rack, because it was the perfect shape and size to put a standard sized pie on. And it was old. She called me, oh,  about twelve times every day–for weeks–to ask me: Did I leave that little round rack at your place . . . ? “No, Mom . . . ” I’d answer, again. And again. “I don’t have your cute little vintage pie rack. Better that you check with Anne, or Mollie.”

Well. I think my mom had finally given up the search for her vintage pie rack, and she was down to asking me only about five times every day, if I was hiding it someplace in my home, when I was visiting an old friend (who is also the friend of my mom) and as I was leaving, he said “Oh! Wait! I have something that belongs to your mother!” (Wait for it . . . ) And, would you believe it, he pulled out that little vintage pie rack. I gasped, and relief and joy flooded over me. Although I was going to miss all those ‘phone calls from my mom every day, I knew how happy she would be to have that little rack back.

I’m pretty sure he really wondered at why I was so ecstatic to see that little round rack. Evidently my mom had given him and his wife a hot pecan pie, months before, when they had stopped at her house for a visit, at just the right moment (when the pies were being pulled out of the oven!) and she had sent the pie home with him, on her favorite rack. Because (wait for it) every baker knows that baked goods need to be on racks when they are cooling. To avoid the soggy bottom thing, of course.

And you may be wondering how many times I can work the phrase “soggy bottom” into this post, aren’t you? 😉

Pretty cool how these things go so neatly full circle, isn’t it??

Thanks for reading, Gentle Readers. I love ya, I do! 🙂

OH, by the way, I’m linking this post up with The Prairie Homestead’s Barn Hop. C’mon over!

21 thoughts on “A Few of My Favorite (Kitchen) Things: Vintage Cooling Racks

  1. Kimberley Wiggins

    Hey Miss,
    Thanks for sharing all this great stuff. If I just keep reading your post I will feel like I am really baking and doing some really neat stuff. I love what you do. Can’t wait to see those tomatoes next week. Love, love, love tomatoes. Blessings.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Kimberley, I don’t know where you live but if you were within driving distance, I’d say to drop by. I’ll have PLENTY of tomatoes to share!

  2. Christi Johnson

    I have long admired anyone who gardens and does a great job at it. In your mind, you might be forgetting to do some things or over-planting every summer, but I promise you that I am not planting anything at all. YOU. ARE. AWESOME!

    Just reading this inspires me to do better…even though I know the inspiration is just mental and emotional, for now. I am a little jealous that you have vintage anything in your kitchen. Everything in mine is modern, even though I always told myself as a teenager that, as an adult, I’d have vintage everything.

    Thanks for sharing this sweet story, today. I loved it!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      What a sweet and encouraging comment! Thank you so much! I have vintage things because I love to shop garage sales and thrift stores (though I don’t get out and do it as often as I’d like!) and those are the things that I naturally am attracted to. I don’t go to antique stores, because then the price goes WAY up. Oh yes, and I’m a tightwad, too, so the old vintage things are attractive in that they are cheaper than the new things (usually!).

  3. Susan Joy Schleef

    I was wondering whether you would actually get around to talking about cooling racks! 😉 But I did enjoy hearing about your garden. I tend to always buy too many starter plants every spring and then have trouble getting them all planted, so I can relate to being over zealous. Fortunately I don’t have to worry too much about weeds since mine is all in containers!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Lucky you, Susan!! There are perks to weeds–as long as you take care of them before they go to seed! Sorry for the rambling. I do seem to get offtrack, quite frequently. 🙁

  4. Diane Boyko Achatz

    I have cooling racks, some of which are 40 years old, but I like my new racks I got somewhere in CA. We used to hit up the Sur La Table in Westlake Village every month or so, and my first stop was always the clearance corner. Oh, I miss those days!

    I don’t have too many vintage pieces, some of them got left behind in 1997 when I was getting divorced. Wish I knew what happened to my old Dutch Oven. About the only things I do have are few old pieces of my Grandma’s Blue Willow dishes. (I’m not sure they are legitimately Blue Willow, but they look like it). Funny how what my Grandma wanted to throw away were the items I wanted to keep.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I know what you mean, Diane. The things that are trendy now (like Blue Willow) were the common (unfancy!) stuff back in our Grandma’s time.

  5. Chef William Chaney

    I use the racks for any number to cooked items that I wish to cool. A great item to have available when your cooking or baking. So here’s a thought, Next time your driving down one of those old dusty roads in the back lands of Nebraska, behind a tater truck or something, and you see an old stove that has been placed along the side of the road for the junk man to pick up, Stop, go open the oven door and remove the racks inside and add them to your collection. Now if you get really lucky, as I did a while back, someone will put an old round Weber smoker out by the road for the junk man. It had three nice round racks inside that I now own. The only soggy bottom in our house these days is the grandson, and even he is getting better at knowing where things should set.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh, you’re funny Chef. 😉 I’ve done the same thing: when we tossed out our old stove, I was careful to pull out the racks, first. I have lots of cooling racks, probably because I used to have very few. This morning, in fact, my sister and I are going to the thrift store together, and I’ll be watching for cooling racks. You just can’t have too many!

  6. Gwendolen

    Amy, I know all about your over planting – I do it too. But, I can positively tell you there is no such thing as too much basil. It is the only herb I can’t live through winter fast enough to grow again. Even if I can’t eat it fast enough or make enough pesto, I want to just smell it while it sits on my counter as I cook or as I brush past it in the garden. I have eight plants on my deck where I keep my kitchen herbs, six more in Big Garden and would have rows of Dark Opal in my borders if I hadn’t forgotten to water the seedlings that ONE TIME…. Talk about Oversight and Terrible Vengeance…

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Gwendolyn, SO what do you do with all that basil? Do you fill your freezer with it? I’m making pesto, selling it at farmer’s market, and will probably dry enough to last me a decade. I love it, too! But what do you do with your extra?

      1. cookinmom

        Hi Amy! Just to let you know, when I have lots of basil (which I did not get one leaf this year…tried to plant 3 times :0( ), I like to make pistou also which is great for soups, stews etc. Just google pistou if you don’t know what it is. I put it (and pesto) in ziploc bags, flatten and freeze (very thin) and when I need a piece (pasta too), I just break it off and throw it in whatever I need it for. You may already do this but I do it with all pestos (dill, cilantro, terragon etc).

        1. dramamamafive Post author

          That’s awesome. I love the idea of freezing it in ziploc bags. I have made pistou before, but I haven’t done that in awhile. I’ve got the best soup recipe which requires it. . . !! Thanks for the reminder!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      You learned something new, eh, Roy? And actually. . . (cough) . . . one thing a “friend” of mine learned (squirm) is that even if you use the racks under your hot food, varnish on a wooden table WILL suffer . . . (don’t tell)

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