LET’S COOK: Punch bowl pluses
Sixty-five years ago, it arrived at Ellison’s Department Store in downtown Minot. It would have taken residence in the houseware department where its splendid design caught the eye of a young nurse. It was elegant, and it was made by McKee Glass Company in Jeannette, Pennsylvania in one of their most popular glass patterns called Aztec Pinwheel. This embellished pressed glass punch bowl was christened at my parents’ wedding on June 18, 1952.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas, comes memories of our family using this punch bowl. It was witness to many happy family gatherings, weddings, and graduations. Holiday times are the perfect time to use our family heirlooms. Seeing them in use can rekindle in us the memories of the loved ones who introduced us to such gems.
This is certainly true for me. As a child, seeing our family punch bowl reminded me of the crystal ball that appears in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The large bowl with its detailed design reflected light from the dining room table sending mini rainbows here and there certainly had my attention. Seeing it in use with shades of punch from pale pink to cranberry red shed a glow on all celebrations. It was a luminaria with a grand stand.
Each time it was unpacked in our kitchen, Mom told stories connected to this vessel. She talked about the joy of nursing at Trinity Hospital and at that time staying in the Nurses Home which was only steps away from grand shopping in downtown Minot. She had decided that it would be nice to use her own punch bowl at their wedding; thus creating a family heirloom.
Both of my parents enjoyed collecting glass, and I came to know that the McKee Glass Company was located in Jeannette, Pa. and was known as “The Glass City.” At one time it employed 600 laborers and had the capacity to produce 30,000 pieces daily which translated to millions of pieces per year – thus, making it one of the largest plants of its kind in the world. Do you think maybe they knew that cell phones and Facebook were hot on their heels and soon folks woud be too busy to entertain?
Their Depression era glass is still some of the most collectable. In addition to this clear glassware, they also made milk glass, window glass, glass bottles and even glass headlight lenses. The company was started in the Jeannette area around 1888 and was closed in 1983.
The celebrations with our family punch bowl had an impact not only on me, but my other four brothers as well. We frowned on the idea of powder punch – how dare someone think this could be considered worthy to be a punch! We had our creative juices flowing and dedicated to creating punch with natural juices. In time, we realized that a punch color coordinated to the event scored higher than tossing confetti. Yes, we were compelled to create, but will admit that we never got around to placing our colored punch recipes in the fall, winter, spring or summer coloring categories.
My younger brother, Kelly, called me several years ago to announce that after much looking, shopping and punch bowl hunting, they had found the perfect bowl. He also informed me that it makes appearances at birthdays, in addition to the other holidays, in their Alaskan home. So the tradition continues well beyond our home in Underwood and to another generation.
My parents’ punch bowl was not only present at their wedding but also at each of their funerals. That punch which was created from their apple trees. It is just an object, but it is an object with memories attached. Seeing this punch bowl reminds me of the home they created, the joy, kindness, hope and friendships they made in this world. Each time I see this punch bowl, they are there and still summoning me to the larger and more earnest effort of being patient, kind, and understanding. Punch bowls can not only aid us in hosting but can remind us of loved ones that ladled with many blessings.
Tips for taking care of your punch bowl.
* Before using for cold punch, temper the bowl with cold water for several minutes as this aids in preventing cracking of the glass.
* Never use a glass punch bowl for hot liquids.
* When cleaning wash with warm water, and preferably bringing the water to the bowl rather than taking the bowl to the sink.
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