Generations of Southern homemakers are rolling over in their graves, agonizing over the new-found obsession with the common Ball Mason jar. Once relegated to the kitchen cupboard for “put-up” okra and pickles, the plain-Jane container is now a hot home accessory.
You can’t throw a fit without hitting a magazine that doesn’t feature a sleek, upscale event where cocktails, tea, or even dessert is served from old jars, often spiffied up with ribbons and bows. The iconic glass jars have even been made into expensive dangling light fixtures for chic kitchens. I couldn’t resist the trend myself, and bought a soap dispenser made from an old jar with a pump built into the lid and must say, it’s as cute as a bug.
But I’ve been told the women who came before me in my family would have never in a million years, put a Mason jar on their table as a drinking glass, let alone stuck even the commonest of daisy in it. They tried hard to shake their country beginnings, and like the mighty oak shading the front porch, thought it best to cover their roots.
These women saved and carefully counted their S&H Green Stamps to purchase respectable glassware and vases for the table. They pored over the pages of Good Housekeeping to learn how to make a proper Jell-O fruit mold and where to place the fish fork – things their rural mothers didn’t know. But one thing they knew by instinct, was that jars do not belong on the table. I was even taught to put the mayonnaise in a serving dish and to never let the jar touch the table, because that would be common, and who, pray tell, wants to be common?
Back in the 1980’s, when Mason jars were still a utilitarian item, the unfortunately named “Po’ Folks” restaurant served my water in a Mason Jar. “May I please have a glass?” I asked my server, who laughed and said, “Sure honey, a lot of people ask for a glass every day.” Is it any wonder then, why they went out of business? We just weren’t ready to expose those country roots just yet.
But fast forward to 2015 and the popularity of Mason jars has introduced a new way to entertain. Beaming brides no longer dream of wedding receptions in the fellowship hall with silver punch bowls filled with color-coordinated sherbet punch. The stylish reception now, is held in an old country barn, with guests seated on bales of hay and punch being served in chilled . . . Mason jars.
Department stores have reported that young couples are no longer registering for fine china, and instead are quite content in listing their gift preferences at Target. Saying “heck no” to the Lennox, Tiffany and Waterford, these young couples are saying “I do” to the Black and Decker, Char-Broil and again . . . practical Mason jars.
Fads and trends often reveal a general sentiment within society, and it’s my guess that our current need to “country-fy” everything is a longing for simpler times. We’re looking for days when cell phones didn’t ring, TV’s didn’t blare and traffic didn’t stress. It’s the opposite of what our grandparents searched for when they covered their “plain” hardwood floors with wall-to-wall carpeting and pitched out the “old” furniture for a sleeker mod-look. They searched for excitement out of the country – while we search for peace within the symbolic barn.
And that’s precisely why the hurried, over-scheduled generation we’ve just raised wants to toast their future with a glass of iced tea, served in an old Mason jar.
This story first appeared in my column,“Southern with a Gulf Coast Accent,” which can be found in these fine Gulf Coast Media newspapers: The Courier, The Foley Onlooker, The Islander, The Times Independent and The Sumter Item in South Carolina.
To see my recipe for cobbler in a jar, click HERE.
To see my (fascinating- yawn!) Easter, Christmas and Mardi Gras jars, click HERE. (It’s a mason jar obsession!)