The parcel turned out to be a book for teaching (Anglo-Saxon costume) and all the places I checked out had stuff that will also be handy to teach with. At the Chinese grocery shop I found a box of Maizena, for instance. I had come across Maizena in some 19th century recipes, but had no idea it was still made.
And at the nut shop they were selling off orgeat, cheaply. Not real orgeat - an almond cordial, really - but it had the right combo of bitter and sweet almonds and I can use it.
The best find of all came from the antique shop. I found a bottle of Boldoot's eau de cologne Imperiale. It's a 1925 perfume for men and the bottle is from the 1940s and it's just under half full. What I love in particular is that it's the same vintage as the swathe of Burmese silk (for men's shirts) that I just inherited from the small remnants of my grandfather's warehouse that my uncle didn't burn. I rather suspect I forgot to tell you about that Burmese silk. My other uncle still has a whole bolt of it, but I got the shopworn uncleanable bit.
If ever I write a 1941 story about a man-about-town I can finger the silk and imagine it made up into a swish striped shirt and dab a bit of the Imperiale on my inner wrist.
Mostly it's for teaching, but anything like this flows into my writing. In this case, the perfume is such a bold citrus, all neroli at first but quite sophisticated when it hits the skin - it could be used for anything. I'm very lucky that some unknown gentleman left a bit for me. I'm even luckier that it cost less than a modern perfume.
Local shops can be awesome.
PS If any of you are setting writing between 1925 and the late 40s and are in Sydney or can get to Sydney, I can bring the Boldoot eau de cologne with me, for you to sample. Let me know quickly, though, otherwise I'll be en route without it.