“For 21 years it served faithfully. Boiled potatoes, rice, casseroles (hot dish to those in the Midwest), veggies, all cooked to perfection in that simple, functional glass casserole dish that had been a wedding gift. It has gone to wherever glass cookware goes when it falls from the counter to the floor.”“D” — May 2, 2005
Above is an excerpt from an email that was posted to a private email group that had sprung to life earlier that same year. It was made up of a very, very small but far-flung group of online friends. Most of us have never met one another in person, but over the years, some of us were lucky to connect face-to-face.
When I read the post, I connected with it. I have a few items in my kitchen that, while not necessarily “valuable” in the monetary sense, mean the world to me. And more. Take my grandmother’s gigantic mixing bowl, for example. And when I say “take” I don’t literally mean “take”, as I would hunt you down and do whatever was necessary to retrieve it. To this day, when I am up to my elbows in that bowl, I can still feel my grandmother’s hands on mine, teaching me the difference in feel between one dough and another.
I have dishes and bowls and mixy/measurey things that are so much a part of the dishes I prepare with them, that I’m certain without those things the dishes wouldn’t taste the same. They wouldn’t be nearly as good or mean as much or comfort the soul as deeply because something would be missing. History. And as much as I love Penzey’s spices, you can’t buy history in a jar.
I ended up reaching out to the person quoted above after they posted, and I asked them to send me some chunks of glass from the dearly departed dish. She did. I took those pieces to my flameworking studio and used my torch to melt the glass, ultimately creating a hollow bead. I filled the bead with rice (long grain, as requested), signing one of the rice grains for posterity.
I then created two bead caps out of sterling silver and stamped the words RICE DISH on each one. I ran a short length of sterling silver tubing through the center of the rice-filled bead, then used tools to spread/fold/roll the tubing ends over the caps, riveting them in place.
The moment I read D’s post, I knew what I needed to do. I’ve rarely experienced inspiration in such a pure, defined form. For me, inspiration is typically more vague. Shadowy. Foggy. It’s often a flash of very broad concept. But this… This was an idea that presented itself full-formed, with a clinical clarity that I’ve not experienced again. Yes, it felt wonderful.
Every day I hope to experience such a thing again, but this may have been a once in a lifetime happening for me.