When L. Elaine Halchin found out about the current exhibit, America’s Favorite Dish: Celebrating a Century of Pyrex, she knew she had to visit. What she didn’t expect to discover, however, was an enormous picture of her mother adorning an entire wall at the Rakow Library.
“To my great surprise and delight, I discovered that she was one of the three women in the mural of the test kitchen!”
Lilla Cortright worked in the Corning Glass Works test kitchen in the 1940s and again in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The test kitchen, supervised by Lucy Maltby, the director of Corning Glass Works Home Economics Department helped shape the design, manufacture, and sales of Pyrex products for decades.
Although Elaine is unsure of what her mother’s specific responsibilities were in the test kitchen, she recalls the fact that she greatly admired Lucy Maltby and was proud of the products she helped develop and test in the test kitchen.
“I am so grateful to know her contributions were recognized,” said Elaine, “and so very proud of the work she did in the test kitchen. She would surely have appreciated knowing that the accomplishments of Lucy Maltby and the rest of the test kitchen staff were acknowledged.”
Elaine says that while her mother enjoyed her work at Corning, her passion was always education. Like her own mother, Lilla knew teaching was her calling. After her second stint in the test kitchen, she attended Pennsylvania State University to pursue her PhD in Home Economics Education, a degree she earned in 1965. She went on to become the chair of the Home Economics Department at what was then Mansfield State College in Pennsylvania.
With all of Lilla’s expertise in the field of home economics, coupled with her time in the test kitchen, Elaine reaped the benefits of her mother’s tremendous cooking!
“I remember her ham loaf,” she said. “It’s on page 60 of Pyrex Prize Recipes (1953). And the popovers (p. 22), and the brownies (p. 44). My mother would make my dad’s favorite cake, three-layer German chocolate, using the round Pyrex cake dishes, which reminds me of the delicious apple crisp she’d bake in the 8” x 8” square Pyrex dish.”
Pyrex by nature plays to nostalgia, conjuring up fond memories of cake batter made in bright red bowls or grandma’s special Thanksgiving dish served in a whimsical “Gooseberry” Pyrex casserole dish. America’s Favorite Dish: Celebrating a Century of Pyrex has delighted visitors with so many familiar objects.
But for Elaine, the exhibit showed her a glimpse into her mother’s time in the Pyrex test kitchen—time her mother spent helping to shape these dishes on display, and, subsequently, the brand that millions of people know and love.