“Gathering” Dishes

We are talking about dishes and their meaning in our lives this week.

I have started giving away many of my vast collection of serving dishes, cake plates, etc. I am a recovering after-holiday clearance shopper. Those special plates are cute and I have kept some, but all you need are basic pieces. (For more info see “Tonette Joyce:Food Friends Family” here at WordPress on Servingware: https://tonettejoycefoodfriendsfamily.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/servingware/)
As resident foodie here, I doubt that anyone would be surprised that I like dishes. I have run through number of sets because, well, they get used, and so they break. I have heard that one should not be embarrassed by using ‘good’ china if it is chipped; it shows that you use it.

I have not used the “good” china that was my mother’s for several years, but I used to when we entertained more. I found out something: food actually tastes particularly good off of real china, that is, good porcelain. (That is the reason why dainty, formal tea sets are made of this, as well as formal dinnerware.)

My mother did not use this set much, since she acquired it later in life and then we moved to rural Idaho where we did not have extended family and old friends. (I won’t go into the reason.) I completed the set by getting serving pieces after it came to me. It is a lovely Bavarian china; I hope I have a good reason to use it again soon. It is platinum-rimmed, so a little less convenient to use for most of our holidays, when people come and go and we do it buffet-style; (we can’t put metal in the microwave).

I have nice dishes, including an almost complete set of wonderful Sheffield china that I picked up at a thrift shop, so we do eat on nice china quite often. I use the cups daily for coffee or tea. I have several sets which are simply comprised of several teacups and either small plates or cream and sugar sets, which I use, especially when we have houseguests. I use them for teas, coffee and hot cocoa at snack times. I love guests who share my enthusiasm for a leisurely breakfast or a nice nosh plate later in the day, or at night. I’ll pull out cheeses, olives, nuts, crudité, perhaps some fruit and/or meats, depending on the appetite of the guests or the proximity to meals.

I have fancy cut glass plates on which I always serve cake. Life is too short to save nice things for…who? Aren’t your family members the most important people?

Just before I was married I bought a set of Corelle for every day and a lovely set of flowered stoneware for “good” dishes, and I used them through the years for every holiday and every semi-formal dinner party. With the sets of china, (and with my latest daily set having been decimated), I was going to move the stoneware to everyday dishes, only to have my sons, (who no longer live with me), demand that I don’t! They want those to be here when they come for special occasions. Who knew they were sentimental?

Although my mother had some special plates and pieces, we didn’t have didn’t have a specific set of dishes for holidays until I was a young teen.

My sister was grown when she took my mother to a favorite department store when the time came to buy a set of china, and I tagged along. We walked in to the store and was greeted in the fine china department by a nice young man, who, had he known what was coming, would probably have hidden in the stockroom.

We had never had a full, nice set for when family and friends gathered and she could now acquire one. She wanted dishes that would be used for every holiday, one that would be suitable for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Easter.
That left out the obviously Christmassy dishes, and since it was for mostly Winter holidays, the ones that looked too “Spring-like”, no pastels, no bright colors. My mother wasn’t fond of florals, but didn’t want a plain set. She didn’t want it to have dinner plates that were any other shape but perfectly round or plates that were too small, (you should have seen my mother’s holiday spreads!), and she didn’t want it to include soup ‘plates’, (bowls with big rims). She also eliminated several sets she otherwise liked simply by the shape of their cups, which was somehow very important to her.

Right away, a set that was ecru and taupe with muted browns caught her eye. It was called “Random Harvest” and had a simple pattern of Autumn: wheat, acorns, grasses, etc., splayed across one side. But that motif was not at all Easter, New Year’s or Christmas-like.
Mom rejected and debated set after set, patter after pattern, shape after shape. We let the clerk wait on other customers in between and when he was with us, we learned about where he grew up, his education, his wife, his kids, and his aspirations for the future, while Mom took breathers between eying the dozens of choices of china.

Finally, after hours, Mom made up her mind and we went home…with “Random Harvest”, after all. It was only truly suitable for Thanksgiving, but it was used for every holiday my mother celebrated for decades.

Despite this, (until he got a better job two years later), whenever we entered the store, the clerk greeted us warmly. I guess he figured that he was safe, since we wouldn’t be buying any more dishes !

My sister still has a few of the Random Harvest set, and we will see them used for serving pieces when we go to her house on holidays. They give all of us a warm and fuzzy feeling, so I guess I can understand why my sons want me to use my blue flowered stoneware only for special days, after all.


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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6 Responses to “Gathering” Dishes

  1. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Great story about china shopping! My mom is fussy too. I imagine that’s why I tend to be easily satisfied – I DON’T want to be perceived as hard to please. How nice that you use nice dishes for tea and snacks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jeff7salter says:

    Yeah, I love the story about your mom’s shopping event… and the long-suffering clerk. Funny that she’d end up with one of the very first sets she saw and liked.
    Speaking of the “taste” of china. I have noticed that coffee tastes better in fine china… although most fine china has teeny-tiny handles that I can’t hook my finger through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Jeff! I think that’s one of the reasons my mother rejected so many based on their cups; most were of the dainty teacup variety and she was a SERIOUS coffee drinker, as was her family. I’ll have to tell a story about that one day.
      I think tea is also better in glass, certainly iced tea is better in glass than in plastic. I think sodas, esp. colas, are particularly tasty in styrofoam.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the story of your mom picking out her good China. The entire time I was nodding my head because that is how I am. I have been shopping for a good set of dishes for a year now. I always find something I don’t like. Many of the rejections have come down to the cups. I like the smaller dainty tea cups.


    • Exactly the opposite of my mother, Angie, as I told Jeff above! I like dainty teacups, but I have more solid ones, too. There is a place for both, although I usually use the dainty ones for myself.


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