Salt & pepper shakers… frogs… NASCAR… keychains… People collect all sorts of things, and it’s not always easy to explain why. I have a little collection of small frogs, and friends bring me tiny vessels from their travels, and every year I add a snowflake (or two or three) to our Christmas ornament collection, but my love, my collection, is Pyrex.
Now, I should explain something — I’m not crazy. I know that I can go buy brand-spanking new Pyrex at a local big-box store for a few dollars, but new Pyrex is clear, and it’s blah. Vintage Pyrex is beautiful! With beautiful colors, interesting shapes, and bright white interiors, the Pyrex of yesterday is a prize. I also know “wasting” money on a collection is just that — a waste, but as you will read further down the page, my bowls aren’t gathering dust. Every single bowl is in circulation. At a party last year, we used 95% of the bowls. When I can or “put up” applesauce or tomato sauce, most of the bowls are in use as I need more waste bowls (for compost) more bowls for cut up fruit, more bowls for ready-to-process fruit, etc.
If you’re of a certain age, you remember a time when Pyrex was practical but beautiful, with vibrant colors, multiple shapes, and many sizes. Pyrex patterns reflect their times, from mod to country and everything in between.
I’m a child of the early 70s, and I don’t remember a time without Pyrex dishes in my life.
We didn’t have too many (any?) Italian restaurants growing up in rural Crewe, Virginia, so Mom’s lasagna was a doctored up version from Chefboyardee. I always remember her serving it in the Pyrex casserole to the right, the perfect size for a family of four. When Mom passed the dish on to me, this little “Woodland Brown” Pyrex dish was my first. (Note to others, do not promise a boyfriend homemade lasagna and then serve him the Chefboyardee version. I would probably still love it today if Mom made it, but former boyfriend was not impressed.)
I have a clear glass Pyrex pie plate from my Dad’s mom. It still has a scrap of masking tape on it that has survived and become one with the plate through multiple washings. This pie plate would travel to family over the holidays and to the bereaved after a funeral. That little piece of tape that once held the name “Virginia Morgan” helped guide the plate back to my grandmother’s kitchen. I can’t help but wonder how many hands have held that plate.
Mom passed another of my grandmother’s Pyrex bowls to me, a green one that was originally sold as a set of four primary colors — four brightly colored bowls of yellow, green, blue, and red. Only the green survived through raising children and grandchildren, but it’s still beautiful.
From my other grandmother — surprise! The yellow Pyrex mixing bowl from that set. It looks like this grandmother had similar luck — only one bowl survived.
Now to find the blue and red bowls!!
The hunt continues, but I have a method to my madness, a method that keeps my Pyrex collection manageable (truly, it is!) and prevents my spending all my pennies. I only buy one piece of each Pyrex pattern. If you look at a Pyrex collection book or website, you’ll see that many patterns were available in multiple sizes, shapes, and colors. This rule means I will never want to have every single piece of every single design in every single color. Trust me, with my bit of OCD, this is an important rule. I really like the restaurant dishes, and because I use them so much, I did break that rule to buy two plates. I also love the teacups with a turquoise band, and the local antique store had a set of 3 for $10, so I purchased them all. Oh, and I break this with the snowflake pattern, but I really do love snowflakes!!
Another rule — I don’t spend more than $10 on a Pyrex bowl. I’ve broken this rule only once, on a red Christmas pattern. I was shopping in an antique store in Salem, Virginia, with my Pyrex buddy — who happens to be my mother — when I saw this large red casserole dish. A Golden Christmas pattern covered the sides and lid. It was out of my range at $26, but I kept walking around the store and kept coming back to rethink it. Well, Mom (who is supposed to talk me OUT of frivolous purchases) was laying down some heavy Pyrex Peer Pressure to buy. At the register, I turned back and picked up the dish and walked away with it. $26 for something I only use once a year is crazy and not at all frugal, but I like the dish, so I don’t regret it.
My final self-imposed rule is I use my Pyrex dishes. Using them increases the likelihood I’ll break them, but if they just sit in a cabinet, I’ll stop noticing them, and I’ll stop loving them. (I have managed to break two of them.) I love using my dishes! I took shortbread to a friend’s house on one of the plates. I served dips in the smallest casseroles at a party. I store raw sugar in a small rectangular “refrigerator dish” near the teapot. I look at it this way — if I break them, then I get to look for that pattern again.I bend this rule slightly because I keep my family pieces in a separate spot. I love hubby, but I grew weary of seeing him pick up Granny’s yellow bowl with greasy popcorn fingers. He can eat his popcorn out of any other bowl, but let’s save Granny’s for slightly less risky situations.
My favorite pattern is, no surprise, “Shenandoah,” which you can see to the right. (I just realized I have this in a larger bowl, too, but I use that large mixing bowl weekly, so there’s a good chance miss butterfingers here is going to drop it at some point, and then I’m back to only one of the pattern.) It’s a soft yellow bowl with pretty green vining and flowers. Of course, the main reason I love it is because we live in the Shenandoah Valley. Mom has the same pattern in a different shaped bowl.
So there you have it — my dirty little secret: I am a Pyrex addict. I also like to break my own rules. Come on, let the cat out of the bag. What do you collect?*** This personal blog is comprised solely of the opinions, views, projects, and travels of its author, Stacey Morgan Smith. She is lucky enough to have loving family and friends whom she drags along with her on her adventures and whom she puts to work on her little farm. She uses this blog to help promote living in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, from Roanoke to the Potomac River.**