A glass refrigerator dish was setting forlornly on a wobbly table in the basement. The masking tape tag said it could be mine for 25 cents. I wandered off through the rest of the musty basement looking over tattered Christmas decorations, worn tools, some dusty knick knacks, chairs that had seen better days, a scale. And then I came back to the table with the square, lidded dish, almost hidden with office supplies and gift wrappings. Nice. But. What would I do with something like this? I went off to the garage full of gardening equipment, upstairs with furniture being moved out, linens heaved around as people searched for the right size, a sad wheelchair in a closet.
Estate sales have their own stories and so did this one. It wasn’t all sad. There were cheery colors in the kitchen, a comfortable sun room and other reminders of a life full of friends and family. They had apparently taken what they wanted and left the rest for strangers to find their own treasures. Like the covered refrigerator dish in the basement. What would I do with something like that? I had promised myself I would not buy anything that did not have a use or a place in my home – now. Not someday. Not on the chance I’d find a use for it later. Not even if it only cost a quarter. It could only be bought if I had a good use for it. I took a turn around the dining room. And then it hit me. I knew exactly what it would do in my house. And I zipped downstairs, grabbed that beautiful refrigerator dish and brought it home. A trip through the dishwasher and it sparkled.
I could tell it was vintage. Curious, I did a search. Its lid is distinctive so it was easy to find. It was made by the Federal Glass Company in the 1930’s and 1940’s, into the Fifties. It could be 80 years old. And not a chip on it. My quarter dish with lid is worth between $30 and $50. Interesting. Even more interesting would be the stories this dish could tell! It may have belonged to the owner’s mother during the Depression. Or a favorite aunt who bought it for her hope chest before her hopes were shattered by war in the Forties. Or was it a wedding gift when the owner was married in the Fifties? Did they use it everyday? Or was it “saved” because it was special. Why wasn’t it in the kitchen with the rest of the dishes and cookware? The dish remains mute on its past. A lady of mystery and charm.
I can tell you what it does now, though. It is the perfect container for a layered salad. Just the right depth so you can lift out a serving with all its layers intact. Make the salad ahead of time, place the cover on while the flavors blend and everything remains fresh. The lid and the size makes it just perfect for summer potlucks and get togethers. And if there happen to be leftovers – which there is at our house because we can make two meals from one recipe – the lid comes into play again. You can even set another bowl on top of the covered dish and save room in the refrigerator. And it works great for serving and keeping melon chunks, too. I love my refrigerator dish with the veggies on the lid!
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