Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What's In a Name?

What's in a name? That which we call a tag sale, would smell as sweet...    Apologies to the Bard.

Well, maybe not smell as sweet, but whether it's an estate sale, stoop sale, garage sale, swap meet, yard sale, rummage sale, street market, flea market, moving sale, lawn sale, white elephant, curb sale, bazaar, bric-a-brac sale, or the tres fancy sounding marche aux puces (the famous Paris flea market) I'm probably going to veer off to check it out.

Quite simply, it's an organized effort to sell unwanted items. I don't haul a crazy amount of other people's stuff into my home, and I never buy used clothing. If you've been reading this blog you'll know from previous posts that I am not opposed to carting home an interesting piece of furniture.

I pay full price for things that catch my eye in my impetuous moments...cars, Hermes enamel bracelets, the mango wood table and chairs (ooops, not at all suited for NY weather) etc...but I do like a bargain. I poke around for certain things I like...Victorian era watch fobs to wear as pendants, sterling silver napkin rings--I love to mix and match them,  postcards of old New York, unusual cookie cutters, etc...

I picked up the sterling silver fobs (at left) in 2007 on Portobello Road in London for about 10 pounds ($15) each. The bronze medal and the charm (2 sided with portraits of someone's ancestors) were found this summer for 5 euro ($7.50) each at a flea market I happened upon, on the outskirts of Cortona, Italy. They're known as mercantini, or "little markets."

I wear the medals frequently and I get to have interesting conversations about them. The bronze medal was very dark, and when I shined it up, I saw that the back is inscribed "Il Touring Club Italiano Al Benemeriti Dellacarta D'Italia MCMVII"  How neat is that? It's a commemorative medal from 1907. The Cortona mercantini, to me, is a wonderful memory of a really sweet Italian town that's gotten a bit too popular, since "Under the Tuscan Sun" was filmed there. (See throngs thronging in Cortona, left.) My cooking class (about 10 of us) was part of the tourist crush...

Aside from finding the flea on the edge of town, another good memory will be the fist-sized fig with mascarpone and honey that I had for lunch in the town square. It was crazy good, and it puts regular figs to shame!

Early this summer I spent a weekend out East with some like-minded pals. We were driving along and we passed a sign tacked to a tree. At the same time, we all yelled "Tag Sale!!"  I turned down a dusty road and there was a massive barn, crammed with all kinds of stuff. Lots of junk, but I guess that's my opinion. I don't "need" anything, I just like to look for the odd tidbit. This was not a store, and there was no attempt to organize things into categories. Pots and pans were stacked up next to books and baby toys, next to dusty raccoon hats, framed concert posters, boxes of old shoes and scratched furniture. We poked around for about an hour and the only thing that caught my eye was a red enamel, 4 quart oval casserole. It was very retro, with white handles. I cook with a round blue Le Creuset dutch oven, and this oval one would be a great size for soups, chili and stews for less than a crowd. The price sticker said $50. I flipped it over and saw Le Creuset...so I knew it was the real deal. There was a little ding in the enamel on the right side handle---my bargaining chip!

I had my 'totally disinterested in this dirty, old, chipped casserole' look on my face when I asked the guy what he'd take for it. He didn't even look to see the $50.00 sticker and he said, $25.00 I guess."  I happily forked over the dough and looked to see how Sandy and Shelley were doing. They haggled for a set of 3 pieces of unrelated art, and they were happy with that! We got into the car and I was laughing out loud at my find! I felt like I should peel out in a cloud of dust, yelling whoooo hoooo. But, I didn't. I wanted to, though!


The other day I was reading the latest Williams Sonoma catalog--I have lots of kitchen stuff from there. I like their colors, tablescapes and recipes and also to compare retail prices to what I've paid at a wholesale supply store. I read a description for a flame red casserole that was "a heritage oval 4 quart cocotte inspired by a drawing in the Le Creuset archives."

Suggested price $290.00, on sale for $150.00. Here it is---looks a lot like mine, doesn't it? Life can be so dang rewarding.

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