Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Twenty-one Days - Day 4: Cooking

I think I may have mentioned before that I'm not much of a yard sale kind of person. I've held a couple of yard sales myself and didn't do well enough warrant my time, and for whatever reason, the yard sales I go to always seem to be the kinds that I would have - a lot of stuffed animals, a few books, perhaps a couple of videos, and a whole lot of stuff that nobody really wants or needs. I just never seem to find anything that's really cool - like I hear other people find. Mostly it just seems like junk I don't really want or need, but (especially, if I bring my girls) I always seem to bring home more stuff I'm never really going to use, and then, I have a serious case of buyer's remorse.

I've had the same experience with flea markets that I have with yard sales. In fact, there's a seasonal, open-air flea market just a mile up the road from where I live, and it seems pretty popular, but the one or two times that I've gone there, most of what they were selling seemed too much like what I find at places like the dollar store - none of which I need or want, and none of which is very high quality stuff.

So, when the indoor flea market opened up in a neighboring community, we simply scoffed and drove on by without a second glance.

Well, actually, there was a second glance ... or two.

And then, we started enjoying some shopping excursions to Goodwill at which we found some particularly cool items.

We decided to give the indoor flea market a chance.

When we first walked into the building, we were confronted with shelves and shelves of DVDs and used tapes or CDs. Not intersted.

Then, we passed by table after table of trinkets and stuffed toys and what were obviously mass-produced tourist-trap kinds of items. Really not interested.

I was beginning to think that this flea market was little more than some combination of a used DVD/CD store and one of those odd-lots discount stores, in which they purchase discontinued items from larger department stores and sell them at a discount.

Then, Deus Ex Machina found a table with old hand tools, and while he browsed the tools, I walked off into another room and saw an old banjo. Now, things were starting to get interesting. And there was a really cool, old sewing basket, and I might have gotten a little giddy over seeing one of those old 45's cases, like my parents used to have ... full of old 45's. There were even a couple of those old portable phonograph players. Ah! That brought back a memory or two.

Then, we walked into the treasure room, way in the back of the building and the thought saved the best for last echoed through my mind. For the prepper looking for old fashioned hand tools, it was truly the Pharoah's tomb. We found food grinders of all sorts, an old cast iron stock pot (sans the lid, but still in usable shape), every sort of jar and bottle you could imagine, and an unopened bottle of wine with Elvis Presley's label ... which I did not get :).

The piece de resistance, however, was this:

It's a chaffing dish - all copper, except for the pan that holds the food, which is stainless steel. I've talked before about low energy cooking, and the first thing most people think about is camp fires, then grills or gas-powered camp stoves, and if they're lucky, they have a woodstove. The thing is, for just making food hot, just heating things up (like canned beans, for instance, or slow cooking rice, perhaps, or warming up a pot of soup), all we need is a candle, which is what the chaffing dish uses as a heat source - a simple tea light.

I think it's the coolest thing ever. I've been planning to build a hobostove with my girls, but this dish is, basically, that, only prettier.

For most, I think a chaffing dish is a luxury sort of cooking utensil. It's something one might find in a home where dinner parties are often hosted, but I don't think we should relegate such a useful tool to special occasions. In fact, I think, when it comes to just needing to make food warm, we really ought be thinking of these very simple cooking vessels as our regular cooking tools, and saving our heavy-duty appliances for special occasions, or when something really needs to be "cooked."

What I'm wondering, though, is if I could use the stand with other pans. Maybe I could even use my chaffing dish for cooking simple foods that don't need a lot of heat, like eggs ... or fried hotdogs ;).

Edited to add: I found this awesome instruction/cookbook for using chafing dishes - complete with a few recipes :).

In keeping with the ideas of innovation and sustainability, today's giveaway is a subscription to Backhome Magazine, in which you're sure to find a lot of other really awesome ideas, including creative approaches to cooking ;).

If you're interested in a subscription to Backhome Magazine, please leave a comment :). The winner will be announced on March 6.


The winner of the Brita water filter is Bellen. Congratulations, and please leave a comment with the address to which you would like the filter sent. I won't publish your address.


  1. That certainly looks like a score. The copper alone is valuable. I'm going to hit as many church rummage sales as I can this spring. In my experience, they're like hitting 100 yard sales at once, except that stuff is more or less organized by theme. I went to one with a (short) shopping list last year, and got everything I wanted, for less than $10.

    I'd love a subscription to Backhome magazine. Please count me in, and thanks for the chance to win!

  2. I've noticed that it's been difficult to find fondue pots and chafing dishes in the secondhand stores for the last that I'd like to find one. The one you have looks great.

    Please enter me in the drawing for the Back Home subscription. It's a great resource!

  3. Nice find, it's not what i know as a chaffing dish (maybe this is a regional thing), but looks excellent for making fondue!


  4. Okay, Wendy, now you've got me feeling guilty every time I plug something in ;) my crockpot yesterday... Good article, again.

  5. Hey, all - They actually had two of these copper chafing dishes, and I'm thinking now, I should have gotten them both, but I didn't realize what I had in my hands. Check out this one on - with thanks to Deus Ex Machina for finding it :). It's definitely a chafing dish and not a fondue pot as it has the double boiler.

    And, Julie, don't feel guilty about the crockpot - most use a lot less energy than, say, using my electric stove ;).

  6. Score! My favorite find was a food mill I found last year in a thrift shop - brand new, never used, with the instruction manual - from the 60's! Definitely better made than any "new" food mill I could buy today.

  7. Please enter me in the drawing for the subscription - it sounds wonderful!

    We are nowhere near your level for self-sufficiency, but we're getting there. I love thrift stores and rummage sales! But I do want to repeat a warning that (I think) I mentioned here a few months very careful when buying items made from fabric. Bedbugs have made a comeback and a lot of people are picking up infestations from used items like clothing, furniture, and mattresses.

    There are instructions all over the net on how to treat anything you've bought that may possibly be infected - just be aware and you'll be fine.

  8. I love how you think outside the box because I would certainly have thought chaffing dish = fancy rich house party.

  9. You've got me intrigued; maybe I'll try strolling through the huge indoor flea market in the center of Brunswick next time we head to the winter farmers' market next door. (Same mill complex.)

    Hadn't heard of Backhome Magazine. Sounds pretty cool. If it's allowed to win twice (probably not fair! :) I'd love to give that a try.

    You came up with some cool prizes!


  10. That's an awesome find! Yea, the ratio of junk to useful is pretty high with most of the garage sales I go to also. Sometimes it can take 5-10 sales before I find one that has anything I need. It's out there though, keep looking. :-)
    Enter me in the drawing too please.

  11. I have the same experience as you with most flea markets and yard sales, mostly a waste of time.

    Thanks for the drawing. The Backhome Magazine is an excellent resource.


  12. A few years ago, we experienced a hurricane, which was really unusual for our area. No one, including ourselves, was prepared. We were without power for three days in our tiny apartment. We had no bbq, no woodstove, no campstove. But we made do by heating canned foods, etc. in a fondue pot over a tealight!

  13. I am loving this series of posts, can't wait for the book.

  14. Looks like a nice little item! I'd like a couple hand-cranked grinders too. I wish I could have saved that crank-drived walnut cracker at my grandfather's way back when.