THE QUAIL PIE DISH
by Frank Chiarenza, author of "The Milk Glass Book"
Opaque News, Vol. XI No.3, June 1996 (reprinted here with permission from Frank Chiarenza)
Among the many splendid items which were sold at the NMGCS auction in Kansas on April 20th this year, one covered dish in particular drew an extraordinary amount of interest. At the close of the auction, the following question was asked of me:
"Many of us discussed the Quail Pie Dish that was sold as the last item in the auction. We were curious about the name because it seemed to be a chicken on top. Can you shed any light on this "bird" and how it came by this name?"
The origin and the name of this most appealing / covered dish was explained in a brief article that
appeared in an issue of the SPINNING WHEEL and is reprinted here:
Quail Pie Dishes from Spinning Wheel
It appears from this article that "QUAIL PIE" refers to one of the types of birds that were cooked in the original biscuitware baking dish. But I agree with those who asked the question that the bird on the cover certainly looks like a chicken to me also.
Bird pie, of squabs, larks, pigeon,. or quail, was an early item on English menus, and in the 18th century quail pie was enough of'a delicacy to warrant a baking dish of its own. Such dishes, it is said, were used extensively by the wealthy during the hard times following serious wheat failures from 1764 to the end of the century. They disguised in some measure, as the pie came to table, the lack of the usual top crust and also popularized estate-supplied provisions. The dish shown here. made in Staffordshire, ca. 1790, is in beige biscuitware. There's a touch of rust under the quail's black eyes. and 7 tiny chicks peep from under her wings. It's 7 1/2 inches in diameter, and 7 inches high to the top of mama's head--just right for a tasty, topless pie! --Spinning Wheel
Original English Biscuitware Dish
We may assume with a fair degree of certainty that the Staffordshire design for the baking dish pictured above was the inspiration for the nearly exact recreation in glass almost a hundred years later. The glass version was produced by the Riverside Glass Company of Wellsburg, West Virginia, founded in 1879, and is illustrated in a line drawing from that company's catalog.
The Quail Pie Dish is rare, indeed, having escaped any mention in the standard milk glass reference books to date. Besides the milk glass version, it was also made in clear frosted glass which is only slightly less difficult to find. It may have been made in transparent colors as well, although none have been reported to my knowledge.
A photo of the Riverside Quail Pie Dish in milk glass will be included in the book which the NMGCS is preparing for publication so that lovers of milk glass, especially of the animal covered dishes, will have the pleasure of viewing a splendid photograph of a piece that unfortunately few of us will have the good fortune to have in our own collections. --Frank Chiarenza