Architecture in the City and Cookbook Finds

This weekend there was an Estate Sale in Minneapolis at a beautiful Brownstone building. I have always been curious about the inside of this set of townhouses. They are in an older section of Minneapolis where there are the remains of Victorian Era architecture. The late 18th and 19th century brownstones are an architectural style that signals character.

As the Easterners migrated to the wilds of the Midwest they brought their ideas of city living with them – row houses.  The eastern cities were becoming more and more densely populated with the flow of immigrants that came to New York and Boston. Living space was at a premium.

What remains of that idea of living in attached houses to save space continues in today’s suburban town homes.  In the crowded cities of Europe and the Eastern states, these usually brick or stone homes survive.  There are only two sets of these buildings that I am aware of in Minneapolis. They are two blocks apart, near the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. (This is my chance to see inside the house. I am thinkin’.)

I was excited. This was an end row house the corner of which ends in a curve. There were many people moving through the rooms looking and buying from a collection of fine art, household silver, kitchen goods, furniture and designer pieces of whatnots. Naturally, I first went to the kitchen and found utensils, pate terrine pans, and one piece of clay bake ware with a duck cover (which I coveted) the equipment looked to be the collection of a gourmet cook. There was a tall window that let light into the small space that was remodeled to accommodate a center island. Due to a high ceiling this room seemed larger. The people who lived there were interior designers. The kitchen space was skillfully planned for the best use of the limited floor space. One look at the cookbooks and I knew or imagined that skilled creative cooking had taken place over the years. The kitchen had a happy energy that was unmistakable. I walked through the four stories of the house, and realized my friend Richard would want to see it too.

The following day I returned with Richard and we bee lined to the kitchen. Richard found some cookbook treasures. I bought the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook.  I still have a good recipe that I pulled from the Chronicle for Banana Cream Pie many years ago. It’s a pastry crust pie and is so delicious, well words fail. Suffice to say, this could be a fun cookbook to own.

The house has exquisite features – the wainscoting throughout the rooms is in perfect condition as are the beautiful carved banisters and handrails on the steps leading to the upper floors. There are backstairs that lead from the kitchen all the way to the servants’ quarters at the top of the house. (They had that “Upstairs/Downstairs” thing going with servants, in the old days.) On the second floor there is a library full of memorabilia, antique photos and many books lining the walls the built-in bookcases.  (I lost Richard there and went exploring.)

The main floor was laid out with a living room on the right that lead directly back into the dining room through an open archway.  Across the entry hall was another room that may have been originally a sitting room. The grand stairs bisected the house. All the rooms were decorated in high style and there were ornate fireplaces in these “two parlors” and throughout the house.  (It would be nice to see the house with out the people and stuff in it to get a feel for the space.) Overall the house was elegant and refined. Much love and care had gone into keeping decorating the house and maintaining it in such good condition.

My find of the day was a very large scale Romantic era painting in the dining room. It was cracked and in need of repair. I stopped to admire it and realized it was the Myth of Icarus – the boy who flies to close to the sun and falls to earth.  It was exquisite. The scene was set in a stream. Icarus lay on the arms of a Naiad (a water maiden) on a rock in the stream with two more Naiads looking on dismayed and astonished. Fastened to his arms were fantastically large feathered wings, attached by straps to his now limp body. They dominated the painting.  Perfect Romanticism.  Even in it’s disrepair the painting evoked the spirit of the romantic age whose philosophy symbolized the challenge of  “man” in nature.  It was a marvel to see. Sigh, too bad I couldn’t buy it.

After a while, I left the confusion of so many people pouring over the goods. I waited for Richard outside in the beautiful weather.

Richard found some cookbooks to add to his library that he has been cataloguing on his food blog. He was really happy with the cookbooks and the great big whisk that he bought.  A thing of beauty with a hand-wrapped wooden handle  – “ I can make meringues,” He said happily.  It was a good day for the appreciation of all things food, art and architecture.

Take out your cookbook and share a meal.

Here’s Richard’s latest cookbook list. Retrieved September 13, 2010.

About kunstkitchen

Visual artist and writer hunting words, languages, visions, and insight in my kitchen - connecting Art (Kunst) and culture and slow food cooking. Credits: Do not own a microwave oven and never have. Do not own a food processor. Chopped veggies in a Zen monastery for a weekend. (Seriously) Classically trained artist. Paint and draw with traditional materials. Live in the Northland where it's six months of winter. Appreciate the little things in life. Sharing food and art experiences and the lessons that my talented and generous friends have given me.
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