November 27, 2012

Pyrex Mania

I have a small confession. Ever since the Sailor and I got our own little apartment, I have been somewhat obsessive about the kitchen. When we first got married, we didn't always have our own place to cook. For a while we lived with my in-laws, then we lived in Cape Town with another family while the Sailor finished his studies; later we lived with my family.  

Sharing a living space is one thing, sharing a kitchen is quite another. I didn't realize how stressful it was until one day I nearly burst into tears as I told the Sailor that I just wanted to pick out my own dumb tea towels.

The truth was, the tea towels were only the beginning. I was tired of using someone else's dishes, pots, pans, and cutlery -- even if that someone was within my family. I wanted my own. Even if I had my own stuff at that point, it's not the same having to share the space with someone else. 

(I do realize how selfish this sounds... and I also know how blessed I have been over the years considering how many people share kitchens all over the world, but hear me out nonetheless.)

Sunset from our flat near Cape Town
Before we got married, I had been living overseas. I never really had my own kitchen. Even in the few years in England where I lived on my own, post-university, I had a slew of guests come and go, and I was using dishes and the like that had been given to me. When I moved back to America, I felt like I had missed the last decade and everyone else moved forward by owning kitchen gadgets they hardly used (at least in my version of the story). I simply wanted my own knives and a few dishes. Maybe I was being selfish. Maybe I was just being practical. But I'll never forget trying to make hash browns from scratch on our honeymoon. They were a flop, but the Sailor simply reminded me that the cooking equipment at our bungalow was inferior. Right then and there I knew I married a man who understood how much a kitchen meant to me, even if I didn't know yet how to wield the equipment with which to cook.

We had some seriously stunning views in the places we lived -- especially in Cape Town, but I was also using the equivalent of an easy bake oven to make our meals. I was pretty proud of myself for learning how to make meatloaf on a hotplate until we got the little oven, and I was even prouder of myself for baking an entire loaf of bread in the thing -- even when said loaf rose precariously close to the top of the oven.

Moving into our own apartment, the Sailor had his say as to where some of the furniture went, but when it came to the kitchen, he told me he didn't mind what I did with it -- it was all mine. 

Because we were nomads for so long, most people gave us money for our wedding. The cash suited our lifestyle at the time, far more than toasters and blenders did. Besides, we never registered anywhere. I couldn't reconcile the idea that I had invited people from at least three continents to our wedding, and it would have seemed odd to me to have people bring breakable china on a plane to our small ceremony. In any case, I had nowhere to put plates or any material gift in whatever kitchen I was utilizing at the time.

When we finally got our own little space years later, I realized that in addition to furniture -- we needed not only dishes but an entire kitchen complement. I caved and bought my knives, my stainless steel pots and my cast iron pans new, but nearly everything else came from thrift stores. 

Suddenly I was drawn to older kitchen stuff. I remembered my mother-in-law had an old glass rolling pin -- the kind you could put ice into to keep dough cold as you rolled it out. Nobody here had ever heard of such a thing, so I took to scouting out antique shops in search of one. I still haven't found a glass one, but I have amassed a small collection of vintage Butterfly Gold Pyrex dishes along the way. 

At first it was just a small mixing bowl -- I thought it would go well with all of the sunflowers in my kitchen. Then I began to realize that this old Pyrex stuff was tough -- I figured if it had already survived 40 plus years, surely it could survive my kitchen? 

I began finding pieces bit by bit. 

My favorite ones by far were the refrigerator dishes. I liked the modern Pyrex glass dishes with the rubber lids (as opposed to their inferior plastic cousins) but there was something about these older ones that really caught my eye. 

I decided to hunt for the full set of the Butterfly Gold refrigerator dishes. I managed to nab the medium sized 'butter' dish and another smaller white one while weekend antiquing

This week, I found the large refrigerator dish. Sometimes, I just have a hunch that I should wander into a thrift store. That day, I went into one on my way to another antique store, in search of some vintage jadeite for a friend. Right as I was leaving, this little beauty stared at me through the glass: 

Can you hear the moment of triumph? The clerk most certainly heard me squeal.

While I don't usually get pieces that are damaged, I made an exception for this one which is only slightly scratched... but totally chip free. For the price, a few scratches were totally worth it. 

So there you have it. The whole fridge family. Happily, I paid less than half of what I've seen lately on eBay and Etsy for all of them. And before you wonder why I didn't just order them online from the start -- for me, it is more thrilling to hunt for them in person. 

In retrospect, if I had to do it all over again, I'm glad I shared so many kitchens and so much cooking equipment with other people. It helped me realize that I can cook anywhere -- in any space and with anything. And I still wouldn't have registered for dishes even if we had our own place back when we got married. (I doubt anyone has a registry for vintage Pyrex in any case.) Far more fun to build the collection this way, I think. The Sailor doesn't seem to mind. In fact, I think he's less overwhelmed when I build my kitchen collection piece by piece instead of all at once.  

And, thankfully, he no longer has to hear me spout off about tea towels. 


  1. Love it Brenda! I'm so with you no the old refrigerator dishes. I have two of the smallest ones and they are great for leftovers. Keep antiquing!

    1. Thank you! If I remember correctly, I think your kitchenware may have helped inspire me to start my own collection!