I’m flicking through the racks at lighting speed, a plastic bin at my feet and a mask on my face. My boys have requested crewnecks and old concert T-shirts. I want cashmere and, of course, an Hermès scarf. This is the beauty of Guy’s Frenchys, the thrift store chain of the Maritimes. You never know what you’ll find.
The best Frenchys stores, or so the legend goes, are in and around the southern tip of Nova Scotia. This is where the boats arrive from New England, filled with rich American cast-offs. Imagine the estate of Mrs. Henry Whittacker of Boston, a woman in pearls who only talked to the butcher, she wouldn’t dream of touching a styrofoam tray. An unknowing heir purges her home after her passing, allowing silk to slip through his fingers and into the give-away bag for the church sale. But somehow, the contents get re-routed to the Maritimes by Guy’s Frenchys press-ganged crew. And here we are, in rural Nova Scotia, flicking through rows of Patriots gear, Brooks Brothers button-downs and the potential for Hermès.
I’m at a moderately desirable location with my favourite fellow thrifters. This isn’t advisable; we’re all roughly the same size with roughly the same desires. Driving here I imagined a scene from Filene’s basement during a wedding dress sale: brides grabbing armloads of discounted gowns, hair pulling, tears. But Guy’s Frenchys is spacious. Its bins are big enough for many arms to rummage, and clothes are organized on hangers throughout the store. We arrived and quickly were absorbed into our favourite zones. The place smells of dusty attic, but there’s hope in the air.
I roll my basket over to the books, my third-favourite spot in the store. This is where we meet a wider swath of New Englanders, those who have read the Twilight Series, James Patterson and the full collection of Reader’s Digest cookbooks. But tucked up at the top, I find Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, a book I had forgotten I wanted to read. I put it in my basket, along with Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte, a memoir with recipes chronicling Hesser’s courtship with her now husband, writer Tad Friend. I hadn’t thought of Hesser’s life before launching Food52, back when she was a food editor at The New York Times or worked as a cook for Ann Willan and ate oeufs mayonnaise at a bistro in France with Julia Child. Oeufs mayonnaise, writes Hesser, is just an excuse to eat mayonnaise. She serves her mayonnaise on a bed of lettuce with hard boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, whole radishes and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Thrifting makes you hungry. But there aren’t any bistro’s outside this Frenchys location, just miles of farmland dotted with melting snow, so we head to Jill’s for lunch. Looking like Julie Christie in her ‘new-to-her’ faux fur hooded vest, Jill puts eggs on to boil. Chere has a bunch of fresh dill. Tara has crusty bread. We eat fat egg salad sandwiches, heavy on mayonnaise and chopped dill, and flick through my new books. Tara passes around the prize of the day, a Ferragamo handbag, straight out of 1975. Suddenly she is Barbara, a woman with manicured nails who dines daily at the country club. “Lunch is on me ladies,” she says as she unclasps the purse.
You never know what you’re going to find.
Egg Salad – for sandwiches, to dollop on lettuce, or to eat spooned on a slivered radish, as Barbara might have done.
Makes 2 fat sandwiches
¼ cup -⅓ cup (60g- 75g) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 green onions, white part only, finely sliced
1 tablespoon (or so) capers
Salt and pepper to taste
Small handful of fresh dill, chopped
4 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and roughly chopped
A handful of micro greens, if you have them, to garnish
Radish, thinly sliced, to garnish
In a small bowl mix together mayonnaise, mustard, green onions, capers, salt, pepper and dill. Add chopped egg and lightly mix to coat the eggs. Serve as desired.