A Food Nerd's Lifelong Dream Come True

If I wasn't a giant nerd before (and I was): I have, today, achieved a minor/enormous life goal.

I put all of my bulk spices into little glass bottles. ALL of them.

(Except the epazote. Sorry, epazote. I only use you, like, once a year when I make black beans.)

I have had my eye out for some rad spice containers for years. I knew I wanted them to be:

- multitudinous
- possessing of character
- basically free

And I was not going to puss out and buy them from Williams-Sonoma or some such. No way.

So last week, while my buddy Blalock was visiting from SF, we dropped into the sketchtastic His House thrift store out on Augusta Highway, on our way to get a late BBQ lunch out in BFE.

Sitting there in the kitchen bric-a-brac section was a Keds shoebox full of these sweet, 1930's-1940's vintage glass spice jars by "Crystal Food Products, Watseka, Ill. 60970" (note the old state abbreviation).

I gathered them up and went up to the surly gentleman running the cash register for a price check.

In my most hushed inner nerd voice, I thought, "Please be five dollars for all of them. Please don't charge me a buck a piece. Please please please pleasepleaselaselappleasepleee..."

"That box there? That'll be three dollars."

3 bucks! Not $3 each. $3 for all 24 of them! Sweet.

Ran them through the Fisher-Paykel (eco-cycle, duh), dried them well and rubbed the funk off of the copper-plated screwtops. Then spent the morning funneling in all of my dried herbs from Mom's garden (after pulverizing them in my mini food processor) as well as the bulk herbs and spices I'd stockpiled recently from Rainbow Grocery in SF.

It took FOREVER.

Not wanting to waste an opportunity to swan dive straight into the nerd zone, I made sticky labels to put on the jars for which I had no correlating spices. I don't stock caraway seed, so now it's a ground clove bottle, and so on.

(Yes, I made the label text a dark olive green in a pretentious font [Gungsuh -- ??] and cut out each and every one from a sheet of Avery 2"x4"s.)

I'll admit, I already had 10 generic glass spice bottles that I pilfered from my Mom's house months ago for my heavy-hitters like fennel seed, coriander, chile flakes and white pepper.

Today I graced these with nerdy, printed labels as well, so that each time I regard them on the shelf or use them in dish, I can praise myself for being so terribly organized.

Total spice organization: it's a long-term dream come true. Like, for the last 12-16 years or so. Now that I've made it happen, I can only imagine the food nerdish shenanigans into which I might descend next.

Til then,
P.S. Today I looked up my vintage spice bottles on eBay just to be self-congratulatory, and they go for $21 to $69 for a set of 24. My friends, believe this: I am full to the brim with flea marketer self-satisfaction.


  1. that is cool! the only thing cooler, in my mind, would be to have a different looking glass bottle for each herb & spice. some with corks, some with mason jar tops, some with screw tops.. oh yeah!

  2. Lucky you!!! I just inherited the same bottles from my grandmother with a rack to hold them. I'm trying to find some new plastic shakers for the lids. Hope I'm as lucky as you!!

  3. So I just broke 4 of those cute square spice bottles! The rack fell down. Anyone want to sell me four? I'm at barbix on AOL.

  4. I just found the 24 bottle set with wooden rack for $6 at resale shop. Mine do not have copper tops.. hmm but they do have tops and the plastic shaker pieces. Yummy lovely. Hope you're still filling yours!

    p.s. Mine are FOR sale if you have a friend who wants a set!

  5. Oh, lil.pow.wow you are so right! sorry it has taken me forever to acknowledge your smarts in this matter. And Ali B., great work! Maybe you and Elle and Barbara were able to work out some tradesies.

  6. Don't want to burst your bubble but, when I was a young girl (about 40 or so years ago) I gave my mother this set of spice jars in the spice rack. Same jars so I don't think they are from the 1930's or 40's (since I wasn't born til '55)
    I have the whold thing now, (1 lid missing) with all the original spices in it. Many of them never used.

  7. Ah, good to know! Can't remember where I read that they were 30's or 40's. I might have just made it up in a moment of wishful thinking. Still, 1960's-70's is just fine with me!

  8. Sweet find Tracie !! I too was just recently lucky as my dear hubby found me a set of 21 with wooden rack that has two ornate doors. Mine all have the copper coated caps along with the plastic sifter lid insert also. hubby found them at the end of garage sale day when someone was going to throw the whole set in the garbage because they didn't sell and she didn't want to mess with em' !! lucky for me :) I find this really special as we live in Illinois and Watseka is less than an hour away from me, but I believe the business is defunct now as I can't find anything about them on the net. Another interesting item is that my spice rack had tucked into the back of it an original re-order form that lists all the spices available and the prices. There are 32 spices listed and you could buy refill spices in a 1 lb. cello bag. The cheapest seasoning being 60 cents and the most expensive was $2.00 they also sold replaceable sifter cap inserts for ten cents ! lol. A second sheet of paper included also listed each spice in its own little box with suggested uses! I searched both pieces of paper and there is no date listed but the address was Crystal Food Products Inc. Box 340, Watseka, Illinois 60970 ~ nelsonjane in Illinois

  9. I believe they are circa 1965. found a set & rack some years ago at my local Goodwill for around 6 bucks. I meant to clean them up and flip them on eBay but never did because I liked them so much, but my kitchen had no place to hang them anywhere near food prep areas.

    we just moved and I finally have a perfect place to put !hem up! I'm So glad I hung onto them. although I AM thinking of painting & distressing the rack...

  10. I have a large 30 jar set of these in a solid wood spice rack with 3 rows. The jars are heavy nicely cut glass & the imprints on each jar is perfect. They were kept in Mom's pantry closet as additional spices so everything is pretty nice. The rack is impressive, painted in a rich darker colonial satin green and can either stand on a counter or be wall mounted. However, these jars are from the early 1960's, verified by the #60970 on the front of each jar which is the Watseka, Ill. zip code which didn't begin until the early 1960s.

  11. Okay I am so glad I found these. Just found a whole set for $2 at the flea market. Unfortunately on mind most of the writing was scraped off. My only concern was the 5 digit zip so Iput them at 60s

  12. I would love to know the recipe mix on the back of the salad herbs . Please email skarenbauer@me.com


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