The Stuffing Bowl

On days when I work all day, my mom usually makes dinner for us. I used to feel guilty about it, but then I realized two things.

First, it gives her an opportunity to help me in a meaningful way – a need no mother ever outgrows. Plus, it means she herself gets a good meal where she might otherwise settle for cereal and toast.

Many times she makes a casserole, or something that can be reheated in one dish, and sends it home with me. Often, it’s in this dish, the one I fondly call The Stuffing Bowl.

The Stuffing Bowl has been in our family for 98 years. It was wedding present given to my maternal grandmother by her younger sister. My Aunt Lil would have been about 16 when my grandmother got married, and according to legend, she went into town to the local mercantile and purchased the bowl with money saved from selling eggs.

So the bowl went with my grandparents to their first home in Millwood, Kentucky in 1924. It came with them when they packed up their household and moved to Detroit in 1940. It came to Redford when they moved in with my parents in 1962. And of course it stayed in my mother’s kitchen after my grandmother died in 1992.

My grandmother’s famous cornbread stuffing was always served in this bowl on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hence, The Stuffing Bowl. Which for the past 10 years has been carted back and forth between my house and my mother’s on the average of twice a week.

I always handle The Stuffing Bowl ever SO carefully. I am a notorious bull in a china shop, and I cannot imagine my devastation were I to break it. Every time I look at it, I imagine my Aunt riding into town on her horse (which is really how they got around and about in central Kentucky in the early 1920’s) and getting that bowl at her cousin Buck Crawford’s dark little general store. I imagine my grandmother as a young bride, placing it carefully in her first kitchen’s cupboard. I picture her in my memory spooning great dollops of fragrant, seasoned turkey dressing into it and placing it in the center of our dining room table.

I’ve been meaning to write about The Stuffing Bowl for a long time. But I was finally inspired to do it after reading a book called Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay. Author Christopher Benefy writes quite a bit about the beauty of everyday objects. He refers to the way a piece of pottery “stands in two worlds at one and the same time.” Pottery, “unlike a painting or statue is not intended to be insulated and untouchable but is meant to fulfill a purpose – even if only symbolically. For it is held in the hand and drawn into the movement of every day life.”

There’s nothing particularly artistic about The Stuffing Bowl. It’s simply a piece of Hall’s Superior Quality Kitchenware, circa 1920. But to me it’s more precious than the pieces of Waterford crystal I received as gifts for my own wedding.

Because they’ve been on the shelf behind closed doors, beautiful to look at, but never “drawn into the movement of everyday life” like The Stuffing Bowl.

They’ve not been touched by three generations of hands, they’ve not held food lovingly prepared to nourish a precious family.

They’re not The Stuffing Bowl, and they never will be.

How about you? Is there a special piece of pottery or kitchen ware that’s imbued with special meaning for you and your family?

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14 thoughts on “The Stuffing Bowl

  1. Very cool story, we don’t have a “stuffing bowl” that’s been passed along, but, the Lovely Miss TK does have some kitchen bowls and other paraphernalia that belonged to her Mom. One of her favorites is an old red and white checked apron that her Mom had when she was first married. She wears it for special occasions like Thanksgiving and just loves it.

  2. Whoops! A new template! Looks nice, although I feel a little off-balance with things more to the left. How weird is that? Some of these themes leave me wanting to move my chair, to get centered. Obviously, that’s my quirk. 😉

    I’m not sure I ever could use the phrase “simply a piece of Hall’s”. Even though I collected Homer Laughlin and etc. for years, the glaze on Hall’s is the best ever developed. Use a Laughlin casserole for a while, and you’ll get some crazing and staining. Hall’s? Never. I like the pattern on yours – Mom had an identical bowl with the Autumn Leaf pattern. Now, it’s in my cupboard, and I use it from time to time.

    I wish I had my tiny Hall’s casserole that I sold – it had a little duck as the finial on the lid. They did do some wonderful pieces.

    My special kitchen items aren’t dishes so much as tools – the meat grinder, the cookie press and my great-grandmother’s butter paddle. I do have a cranberry glass dish we always served the cranberry sauce in at holidays. I never use it on a daily basis, but when Mom still was here we always used it for Thanksgiving.

    • Thanks for the update on the Hall’s pottery. Now that you mention it, the glaze on it IS still perfect even after all the times it’s been washed and put through the dishwasher.

      How neat to know your mom had a bowl like this one with a different pattern. They must have been more popular than I thought 🙂

  3. My dear husband’s maternal grandmother insisted on giving special pieces to loved ones while she was alive and could enjoy seeing them in use. It gave her some control over their distribution. I was given a pedestal-ed cake plate. Just cut glass, not crystal, and she said it was probably from the dime store and not worth much. But the story that came with is priceless to me. “Carol,” she said, “this cake plate has been used for many-a-family celebration through the years. Birthdays, holidays and special occasions like Jimmy’s (my father-in-law’s) homecoming from World War II. I hope you use it for many more Johnson family memories.” Sounds like a similar heritage as your Stuffing Bowl, Becca. I can’t help but think of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and George’s homecoming everytime I use it. And Yes, I brought it to China!

  4. Somebody has been simplifying around here. Spring cleaning? Luvin’ the new, streamlined duds.

    When we were first married, my mother gave me a box of useful things from her kitchen. A Hall’s bowl and pitcher were two of the items. Thankfully, I didn’t toss them. They didn’t seem like much at the time, but I felt differently after she died. I treasure them now for all the times her hands touched them.

  5. Our Aunt Lil was one of kindest most caring individuals I’ve ever known. She never complained and always had good things to say about everybody. Your story touched me and made me remember what a remarkable person she was. (It also made my mouth water to think of all the delicious food that was placed in that bowl!)

    • I bet you’ve had some of that cornbread stuffing with fresh sage in it 🙂
      Aunt Lil was a dear person, and I have wonderful memories of eating great meals at her house, too.

  6. OK — First, let me say that your Hall dish is a treasure. As Linda mentioned, their glazes are the best. I have quite a collection of Hall china — a couple of different patterns including the Tulip pattern (aka the Stuffing Bowl pattern). Plates, gravy boat, mixing bowls, but no stuffing bowl. It is so beautiful! I’ve been wanting to do a china post for eons but I never get around to taking the photos.

    The dish I regret most losing is a china bowl of my grandmothers that broke. I still have all the pieces in a baggie in the basement trying to figure out how I can incorporate them into SOMETHING because I can’t bear to throw them away. (Which is why I have a clutter problem…)

    Treasure that bowl. Yes, it has some financial value, but that’s not why I say it — and I really don’t have to, because you said it so eloquently in your post. It has meaning. The best meaning in the world.

  7. I had no idea that Hall china was anything special, and I’m SO glad to know it is. Thanks Linda and Jeannie for enlightening me. Although, of course as you said, it’s special to me for much more than that reason 🙂

    I hope you figure out what to do with your broken bits…seems like there should be something for someone as creative as you!

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