Auction – Sold: Sylvia Plath’s Rolling Pin and Recipes

Atlas Obscure report..

Browned and splattered, a set of recipe cards owned by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet raised a lot of dough.

READERS OF SYLVIA PLATH’S DIARIES and letters will find her whipping up homemade mayonnaise, baking Toll House-style chocolate chip cookies, searing steak, and stewing rabbit. Rarely, though, did the famed poet and writer share her recipes. But this week, 33 of Plath’s typed and hand-annotated recipe cards surfaced at a London auction, sold together with her embossed wooden rolling pin. Plath fans pounced, bidding them up to $27,500.

If the well-thumbed cards are any indication, Plath’s staples included delicacies such as chicken fricassee, cherry & cottage-cheese cobbler, and broiled Cape scallops. They also include family favorites, such as “Ted’s mother’s Scots porridge oats biscuits” and her own mother’s apple crisp. In April 1958, she records in her journal that she is rereading Moby Dick and fixing a “huge fish soup” with “chunks of soaked fish & potatoes,” served with “buttery crackers foundering in it.” Is it one and the same as her recipe for “Grammy’s Fish Chowder”?

The recipe cards were among 55 items recently consigned to auction by Frieda Hughes, the daughter of Plath and fellow poet Ted Hughes, who had already divested many of her parents’ books, photos, and artifacts at two previous sales. Notably, in 2018, Plath’s prized copy of the Joy of Cooking—“It’s the one book I really miss!” she wrote to her mother in 1956—bearing her ink stars and notes, sold for about $6,000.

The recipes and rolling pin sold for $27,000, even though the pre-auction estimate was well under $2,000.
The recipes and rolling pin sold for $27,000, even though the pre-auction estimate was well under $2,000. COURTESY OF SOTHEBY’S

“She was a fantastic baker and a fanatical cook … cooking for my father was one of her joys,” commented Hughes in an auction house press release. The pieces offered in the recent sale, she added, show “the happiest and the most dynamic part of my parents’ relationship, when they were working at their best together and still very passionately in love and supportive of each other.” Their bliss, however, was short-lived, with her father’s infidelity and her mother’s suicide at the age of 30.