Stark white with a raised ridge like a well made pie crust. Tiny, pale flowers around the edges. Were they cornflowers or colored daisies? I remember when my parents were feeling comfortable enough to invest in this first real set of dinnerware. These were the plates of my childhood.
If, like me, you sit down to at least one meal a day at home, the dishes that food is presented upon have a story. We may not think of them often, may not ponder the pattern or colors chosen, or remember the millions of repasts enjoyed from them. It wasn’t until I sat down for a last meal with my mother that my eyes focused for the first time in years on her plates; then slid out of focus at the flood of memories; the tables they graced, the family and friends they had served. I was sad to realize they were not as beautiful as I remembered – glazed with tiny cracks and chips, faded flowers washed out after years of use.
There was dinnerware that epitomized the summer cottage; vintage Fiestaware from the 1950s. Everyone had their favorite colors and pieces, the oversized egg cups were prized by all. The very sight of the plates, laid out on a red & white checked table-cloth, the wobbly green wooden picnic table set on uneven ground by the lakefront, the smell of the pines – happy meals.
Meals with Gunther and Elise are well-deliniated by the set of dishes we use. Toast is served on wooden trenchers, yogurt and oatmeal in stout ceramic bowls. Lunch and dinner feature blue and white delft-ware from Tiffany. The other night as I wheeled Gunther to the table for dinner he, proclaimed, “I’ll have an egg with my yogurt.”
“Look!” Elise smiled, “Do these look like breakfast dishes?”
I have two sets of dinnerware, one from each marriage, one from each lifetime. My first marriage was the era when one chose a china pattern and registered it for guests to purchase. My few remaining place settings are delicate and chipped. It is a formal, hand-painted Longchamps design from France. Originally I could serve twelve. Unfortunately there was a mixup when Roger and I moved to Trinidad. The shipment for storage including my china, arrived at the Custom’s House in Port of Spain only to be damaged in a fire. The few surviving pieces were a welcome addition to our very social life of constant entertaining. When we moved to Asia, I carefully packed them and had them sent home. I rarely use them and never replaced what was lost.
When Jeff and I were raising the girls, we fell in love with a pattern of tableware in Arizona. It is hand thrown pottery, workmanlike with rich southwestern colors. Through many years of dishwashing and handling by kids, it has survived well beyond expectations. It is my everyday choice, warm and comfortable. Someday, perhaps my daughters will look at it as a defining character of their childhood meals.