I try not to get too attached to things in my kitchen. The combination of my clumsiness, my tools’ heavy use and my kitchen’s limited storage space means nothing is sacred.
And yet, certain items worm their way into my heart. If there’s a family connection, I’m helpless. I still haven’t had the nerve to pitch a now-kaput hand mixer that originally was given to my father’s mother by a bank for opening an account, probably making it at least as old as me.
Thankfully, another hand-me-down, this one from my mom’s mom, shows no signs of obsolescence or fragility. It’s a vintage CorningWare casserole dish (one website I found calls it a skillet), part of the Blue Cornflower line that has become a darling of collectors. The piece measures 10 inches by 10 inches, at a relatively shallow 2 inches deep.
Neither my mom nor my grandpa can recall how the dish and its set came into my grandmother’s possession, or even what she used it for. Equally fuzzy is how it joined my Island of Misfit Toys kitchen collection. I know Mom gave it to me, but why? A feeble attempt at a cabinet culling? Perhaps.
We’re also not sure how it came to have a chip in the corner of its glass lid. “If you can make a bet,” Mom said, “it was probably me.” (Clumsiness is inherited, apparently.)
What I’m fairly sure of, thanks to dedicated CorningWare fans on the Internet, is that the dish dates from the late 1960s or early ’70s, long before I was born and long before my grandmother died in 1985, when I was 2.
I have no memories of her, but I feel a real connection every time I use the CorningWare — and use it I do, because letting it collect dust just wouldn’t feel right. It’s the perfect size for roasting vegetables and fruit for two. And almost every week you’ll find it in our refrigerator, holding some kind of leftover. My grandma was an avid, talented cook (another inherited trait?), and I like to think that even though it’s not the kind of food she prepared or ate much of, she’d probably get a kick out of the assorted curries, stir-fries and tagines I store in her CorningWare.
Chipped lid notwithstanding, I believe the dish itself is indestructible, which is what makes the vintage stuff (contemporary replicas are available from now-parent company World Kitchen) especially appealing to me and others. From oven to refrigerator and back to oven or microwave and then dishwasher, it can take it all. And the fact that even burned-on food — roasted cherries, anyone? — comes off cleanly with just some hot, soapy water and elbow grease makes it even more invaluable.
When my parents inevitably downsize from my childhood home, I’m guessing it will be open season on kitchen equipment. (After all, I’ll probably be cooking for them nearby.) I don’t know whether my mom will want to part with any more Blue Cornflower dishes, but if she does, they’ll be among the first things to join their sibling — which, with any luck, will outlive us all.