Monday, June 20, 2011


In the long-ago days down South, we had people over often, or I catered a party or “helped with a shower” or some other such gathering for church or school or friends, and I had several punch bowls---mostly gifts.    Filled with a lovely fruit punch, or good strong clear sweet tea with floating lemon, or clouds of that severely-sweet sherbet-and-Seven-Up fluff---set one of those down, and anytime’s a party.

One of my bowls was a gorgeous Austrian cut-glass model, with a lovely pattern incised in lines almost sharp enough to cut your fingers.     It was a beautiful thing, shining in the light of a pretty table, or even just in the sun on the afternoon dining table.   I even put down towels in the sink when I washed the delicate thing.

It required “acclimating,” according to the directions on the paper which came in all the tissue and wrap---you had to put in a little cold water and swish it gently around, then a little more, then with a little ice, getting the chill all up the sides and chilling the bowl a bit before pouring in the icy punch.

I lent it seldom, for it had been a gift from Daddy, bespoke from friends traveling and shipped from faraway lands.    And I always took the time to tell the hostess JUST how to season the bowl before using.    Once, and the last time---literally---that I lent it out, was for a very special baby shower at our church.   

We were having a lovely time with games and chatting, and then it was time for refreshments.   As some of the ladies started setting platters and trays on the table, there came a resounding “CRACK,” like a pistol-shot from the kitchen, followed by a gasp-and-a-total-hush, during which came the splash and drippage of a great quantity of liquid onto the tiled kitchen floor.

   I knew exactly what the sound had been---my gorgeous punch bowl.    I didn’t even get up to go look, for I think everybody else did.    It was in two neat pieces, split almost precicely up the middle, lying like a dead clam amongst the big pool of Sunrise Punch, which was speedily making its way past the extra cups and the twelve Tupperwares of cookies and tee-ninecy sandwiches, and onto the floor.

The one hostess who “didn’t get the word,” had undertaken to fill it right up from the big old jugs of crusty-iced punch, straight from the freezer, and they did their work.   Nothing to be done but smile and finish the party and take home the sticky pieces, to glue together “just for looks” for the table.    And nobody was to blame, really---no way to be mad, (well it was worth at least a private pout or two)and what good would it have done---just a gentle regret for spoiled perfection, but we still got to look at that shine and twinkle for many long years.

And another bowl---a Christmas gift from my children---was in use for lots of things besides punch.   It was one of those two-decker models, with the smaller matching bowl inverted beneath to make a goblet-shape,  and all those little plastic doo-hickies around the edges to hold the cups.    It held many a banana pudding for Church Suppers, or a huge salad for a ladies’ luncheon, or even that ever-popular “Overnight Salad” with all the layers---or best of all, an immense four-or-five-makin's of Pink Salad for the Family Reunion, showing rosy through the glass.

Right now, I have several in the house, including an impressive Fostoria beauty, huge and gleaming, which lives atop the oldest china cabinet---it was a gift from a dear friend when they downsized houses, and except for DS and DDIL’s wedding, I’ve never had occasion to use an item of such magnificence. 

Punch bowls say you're doing something special, even for everyday.


mississippi artist said...

Well you took that well- I would be in the pen, because I probably would have killed somebody-even if it was in church!LOL! The only punch bowl I have left is a marigold color depression glass that has eggnog etched in fancy white script on the side. I usually pile antique Christmas ornaments in it every Christmas.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Hi Rachel

I cam over form Jeanne's blog as she posted about your wanting to see Schoodic point, and posted all the beautiful photos from her trip.

I had almost the very same mishap with a punch bowl at Thanksgiving one year. I put hot mulled cider in it and very soon after it cracked in half! What a mess!

Kat @ Justabeachkat said...

Now you've got me wondering where in the world my punch bowl is! Gosh I haven't used it or seen it in years. It's either packed away or I might have even given it away. Gasp!


Maggie McArthur said...

You're a saint! I would have been swearing and carrying on if a clumsy client wrecked my punch bowl. I love all those fruity sweet punches, but: here's a little picture about how a Southern Baptist like you and a Northern Episcopalian like me are punch different. Because you served a LOT of punch, a glass bowl made sense. Because my fam served punch , needless to say, boozy, once a year for New Year's Day At Homes, the punch bowl never got a good workout. It was old, silver and unbreakable, because it got used once a year, with all those tiny silver cups perching on the bowl's rim.

I adore punch, the ginger ale and sherbet version or the rum and citrus version served warm. Let's bring back punch!

Beverly said...

Oh, dear Rachel. I must admit I felt this demise coming as soon as I started to read. My heart broke for you.

I have a punch bowl story I should post about. You've inspired me.

Jeanne said...

Oh Rachel, I know just how you felt when the sad break happened. I did that very same thing to my mother's precious Pink punch bow. Needless to say it was very old and had belonged to her mom. I had no idea that it needed to be chilled. First I poured in ice than cold punch. The crack was so loud I was stunned. This is the saddest part. I borrowed it for my oldest daughter's birthday party...She was one years old. What was I thinking? Why did my mom consent to lend it to me? I have asked myself that question so many times. When my mom passed away she left that bowl to me. Glued and a sad reminder for the rest of my days. I know she didn't mean it to be a sad reminder,and she knew I loved that bowl no matter what. However, even though I am still sad for the breakage, the bowl is still beautiful and noone really notices the crack but me. I feel your sadness over your gorgeous punch bowl.

The second punch bowl is beautiful too. I'm glad it is still in one piece. Smile. The Fostoria is gorgeous. Maybe it is best just to admire the beauty and leave it in it's special place. Smile.

At this time I do not have a punch bowl. I had a gorgeous Candlewick punch bowl with a matching platter to put beneath the punch bowl. It was large enough to hold the lovely matching cups. It was a gift from a friend. She hated it because her MIL gave it to her and her husband divorced her. I finally sold it but it graced many lovely occasions while it was in my possession.

Boy, this post brought many memories. I hope you don't mind that I felt compelled to share my stories with you.

Come over, I posted your dream about Maine. Smile!
Love, Jeanne

Keetha said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about that special punch bowl! Such a shame!

It made me smile, the idea of a punch bowl so very its own self that it requires seasoning before using.

Southern Lady said...

I can just imagine that horrifying sound when the punch bowl cracked, and I don't blame you for not going to look. As always, Rachel, you handled that disastrous situation with grace and the southern manners you were brought up on.

I hope you get to use that lovely Fostoria bowl at your Lawn Tea!

Southern Lady said...

Wow ... I finally found a way to comment! Instead of using my Google account, I entered my name and url for my blog, and it worked! Yay !

Kim Shook said...

I know that sound. It happened to my grandmother's cobalt glass blue pitcher that she got as a wedding gift in the late 30's. I inherited it and am adamant about using the things I love. Someone who didn't know about old glass was pouring hot tea into it to make sweet tea. I was in the other room and heard that 'gunshot'. It's a sick feeling that I can recapture if I dwell on it! I had mine repaired 'for pretty' - but now it sits on the shelf only half of it's old self - still beautiful, but no longer useful. I adore cut crystal, but I really like Maggie's family's use of a silver punch bowl. Much more practical and easier to wash. Cut crystal is so heavy that I don't use my pieces much at all. I had to smile at your memory of lining the sink with towels to wash your bowl - I still do the same with wine glasses!

The Fostoria is GORGEOUS! I'm with Maggie - punch time has come again. If we can have tea parties, can't we offer something special in the punch bowl for a choice?

Cape Coop said...

I LOVE punch bowls! I used to have a collection of them to use at parties for salads and punches. I sold them all a couple of years ago. Last summer in a thrift shop I came upon the MOTHER of all glass bowls- truly immense but plain, and definitely not vintage.It came with an antique punch bowl base! I saw, I grabbed, I SCORED!
we used it for Kiddle's 21st birthday party punch- the kids were suitably flattered!

maria piliro said...

how much are these bowls worth