Pie Plates, Baking Dishes, Covered Casseroles, Batter Bowls, Colanders
The most amazing sight I've ever seen was a barn raising. Our barn burned down when I was 13. We hired a local construction crew to supervise the rebuilding, but everyone pitched in. Friends, neighbors, relatives, even the parish priest, all arrived with tools and energy to contribute. And while the barn went up, a similarly large structure was built--and demolished--every noon.
Mom and Grandma roasted chickens and hams. Neighbor women brought bread, hot dishes, vegetables, salads, dessert, Jello in all possible colors and combinations. Never before or since have I been so aware of how central food, and its sharing, is to our lives.
When the barn crew hit the dessert, pie went first. Cookies, cakes, bars all took second place to Grandma's apple and berry pies. "Our wives make cake at home," they told my mom, "but they never make pie."
I never understood that, myself. Pie is not that hard to make. I got my Grandma's recipe when I went away to college. After trying metal and pyrex pie plates, I finally settled on stoneware as the best. Something about the way clay absorbs and releases heat means that bottom crusts, even on a really juicy rhubarb pie, are rarely soggy.
Our pie dishes are 9" across, and extra deep, to contain all those good juices. Patterns vary widely, depending on my inspiration, but include Rooster, Hen and Chicks, Ducks, Cats, Robins and Horses.
Garrison Keillor notwithstanding, we didn't have "hot dish" at our house. We had "casserole." Ground beef and tomato, tuna-fish, macaroni and cheese, each mixed into a substrate of that staple of Midwestern cuisine, the elbow macaroni. I still make variations of these recipes, with real cheddar, not that frightening orange stuff, and no cream of mushroom soup. Bread crumb toppings brown nicely in our Squared Baking Dishes.
With rice casseroles, I either cover the open baking dish with foil, or use one of our Covered Casseroles.
What's the big deal about pancakes on Mardi Gras? We had them all through Lent. Every Friday, it was eggs, or macaroni and cheese, or pancakes. By Good Friday, Tony would announce, "If I never see a pancake again, that's still too soon!"
So I use small (1-1/2 quart) batter bowls for omelets and quiches, big ones (2-1/2 quart) for cake batter, muffins, or, very occasionally for... waffles.
There used to be an old Slovenian farmer in our area whose nickname was "Stop Macaroni." As my folks told it, he'd gone into the local general store (which shows how old the story is), looking for a strainer, or colander. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember the English name for the device, and the clerk didn't know Slovenian. After a number of unsuccessful attempts at communication, explanation, hand waving, even pantomime, he shouted in frustration (and an accent that can only be imagined), "Stop macaroni, water go 'head!"
He got his strainer.
Our "stop macaronis" are 10-1/2 inches wide, four inches deep, hand-pierced in a six-pointed star pattern. The rim is drilled for hanging, and a small brush drawing decorates the inside top.