Hi friends. Wow is it really June already? It has been too long since we did a blog post. With everything going on in the world right we just haven’t had much to say. With the pandemic hitting and the shelter in place orders, most of us didn’t have a chance to welcome Spring into our booths. We kind of just went from Winter straight to Summer. This is definitely going to be a year for the history books.
Speaking of history, we wanted to share the history of Corning Ware with all you today. My dear friend, Leslie Wylie, wrote a wonderful blog post on this subject. She and I used to have our own booths at the same antique mall and then we went in together and shared a funky, junky, kitschy kind of booth. This booth was for our inventory that didn’t fit into the theme of our larger booths. As you can see from the next two photos, it was a small booth, 7×9 I think. We had fun with it and we did fairly well.
So without further ado, here’s Leslie!
Pretty much all GenXers are sent to a flurry of comfort-food memories when they are confronted with that iconic trifecta of Posies in Cornflower Blue. It’s the homemade Lasagna, the banana nut bread, the apple pie, and… well… pretty much anything else their Boomer parents made to eat between 1960 and 1995. It’s part of our coming-of-age stories!
GenXers, jokingly (and seriously) are an often-overlooked generation between the more outspoken Boomer and Millennial Generations. Just like that, vintage Corning Ware is often overlooked between the fashionable vintage Pyrex and luxurious modern LeCrueset generations. But… let me tell you, this cookware is a diamond in the rough! It’s THE SINGLE MOST VERSITILE COOKWARE AVAILABLE!
Let me tell you why!
These amazing vintage pieces of cookware can go from the freezer to the oven, from the oven to the microwave, from the microwave to the dishwasher, from the fridge to the stove or even the broiler and ANY combination thereof! Seriously. It’s all because of a magical material called Pyroceram that has a very high tolerance to thermal shock.
Pyroceram was created by the perfect mix of accidents involving a malfunctioning furnace and a clumsy chemist. Picture it: 1950, in the Corning Ware lab, the furnace was supposed to stay at 600 degrees Celsius… but it rose to 900 degree Celsius while the glass was inside. The chemist removed the piece of glass from the overheated furnace and …. BAM…. dropped it on the ground. To his surprise, the glass did not break! This amazing creation was eventually even introduced to NASA and used in the space shuttle program.
By 1960, this magical material was a household staple. It was on every GenXers dinner table from birth to …. well, in my case… it still is!
Corning Ware introduced a plethora of platter options as well as cookware pieces (even included a slow cooker that holds the casserole-style dishes). The more recognizable patterns are the Cornflower Blue and the Spice O’ Life patterns. A quick Google search will pull up all the patterns. Some are harder to find than others. My personal favorite is the Wildflower.
I’d like to bridge a gap here between what our Boomer parents knew and what our Millennial kids need to know about this gem.
- Let’s talk food prep. For health or for convenience… make food ahead and store it in the smaller dishes with rubber lids. Freeze for quick and easy TV style microwaveable dinners! Make a double pot of soup and freeze half of it for a quick dinner you can pull out of the freezer and throw on the stove (yeah, for real… it won’t break if you put it on the stove while frozen!). Make your lasagna in a couple medium size pans instead of the large pan. Have one now, have one later!
- Let’s talk food safety. It’s GLASS. There’s no worry about what is leaching into your food like the plastic food storage containers, folks. It’s also quite durable. Now, it’s not totally unbreakable… but you really must TRY to break this stuff. It’s quite safe travelling in a lunch box to and from work.
- Let’s talk environment. Avoid the aluminum throw-away dishes. Recycle those lunch meat containers. Don’t bother with the freezer section in the grocery store and all that landfill fodder that comes along with it! These things clean up so easily in the dishwasher!
- Let’s talk durability. Do you know why you see these in every single Antique store and Estate Sale? Because they LAST FOREVER! They aren’t super expensive to buy because so many have survived! When was the last time you had to replace something that got broken or chipped or just simply wore out? This material will be like-new forever! Even if you find one that appears scratched… it’s not. A little elbow grease and Barkeepers friend will clean it right up. Remember, the finish isn’t really a “finish” on another material. It’s the same material all the way through. It’s not “coated” in anything. Any dirt or marks are on the surface CAN be removed.
I love my vintage Corning Ware pieces. I use them, literally, every day. One of my 9 year old son’s chores is to empty the dishwasher every day. These are the only dishes I still have that don’t have chips in them from his style of dish-stacking, which is very similar to that Rock Stacking thing people do by the rivers. I suppose he’s learning a little about structural engineering, so there’s that. Still, this stuff is every mother’s DREAM cookware. They just don’t know it yet!
Corning Ware does still produce this kind of Pyroceram cookware, but be aware… Not all Corning Ware is Pyroceram. When you’re looking to buy, make sure the bottom of the dish is the same finish as the rest of the dish. It should have that smooth “glass” feel vs. a course porous pottery kind of feel to it. If you still aren’t sure you have the right stuff, there are marks on the bottom or under the handles that give details on the age. A Google search can help you date the piece by the letters and numbers shown on the bottom. Look for date codes between 1957 and 1990.
Now, go out and find your diamond in the rough!
Thank you, Leslie, for the very informative blog post. We loved it and we hope you did, too. You have encouraged me to go out and purchase some of these pieces. Leslie doesn’t have a booth right now, but she does have an eBay store. If you would like to visit her store, you can find her here.