It’s the end of the year and time to think about new beginnings. I resolve to try my best to kick this old blog up a notch, do more writing/submitting , try being more creative in all areas , put more effort into other people’s projects…and the decluttering will be in continuous motion!
I found an opening to a post I had been planning to make, actually, it had planned to be a chapter in my book: On Dishware
Another food-blogger recently introduced a friend on Facebook. The friend wants to start a food blog herself and asked for advice. One concern was what kind of dishes should she chose. My advice? If you are going to buy dishes, I suggest they be plain, preferably, white. I have found out the hard way that not all foods look good or show up well on colorful plates.
I have several types of dishes for everyday, since, dishes break. I have some of these and some of those and a set of another. I have a set of stoneware that I use for “good’ dishes. They are so much a part of holidays that when I tried to retire them to everyday use, my son,(a grown man) , insisted that I not do so; I had to go out and buy another set.
I also have my mother’s set of real china, which has seldom been used; it looks pretty in my china cabinet, but I need to pull that out again . I just haven’t had a real dinner party in some time, it’s been mostly family with kids,(so I use the stoneware!) and most often, I serve buffet-style.
Also, both sets are blue. The stoneware is blue-on-blue patterned and the china is white with gray and grayish-blue flowers. This was fine when my dining room walls had blue in the wallpaper, but now, I have gone to browns and beige and , well, it just seems a bit ‘off’, since they both looked striking with either my blue or white tablecloths; those colors contrast a bit with the more subdued browns. I have had the dish sets for more years than I have lived in the house, so the match with the décor had been a fluke. Do take into consideration redecorating when picking dishware, unless you have the funds to replace everything,(and you don’t become sentimentally attached to dish sets like my son!)
When I was a teenager, I accompanied my sister and my mother to shop for ‘holiday dishes’. We were in need of a set to use when family gathered at our house for holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. The department store Mom chose had an enormous selection of dishware and china. She immediately dismissed the high-end priced ones,(by necessity), and the most impractical or the very wrong colors,(she disliked strong patterns, garish colors, and pink).She quickly chose three styles and weighed the benefits of all…and talked, and changed her mind and discussed…this went on for hours. My mother let the patient young man who was our salesman leave us several times to make other sales while she ‘decided’. We learned about the man’s wife, his children,(two daughters, I recall), where he lived and his education. We learned of his dreams and aspirations and finally, my mother decided on a lovely set in off-white, beige, taupe and brown, with leaves , fruit, acorns and nuts.Its name was “Random Harvest”. My sister still has many of the pieces, but after all that deliberation, Mom still chose a pattern that was only truly suitable for Thanksgiving!
Holiday–themed dishes are darling, I will be the first to admit. I have many, for almost every holiday; but I have to resist buying any more. I am a recovering post-holiday sale addict. I mean it seriously; it is at dangerous levels. I have bought things I did not need and really could not afford, but they were all so cute and up to 75% off! Now I now stay out of stores after holidays. I will admit for recently ‘falling off the wagon’. I was at a charity thrift store, the kind where I drop things off in donation and to try to declutter but then I go in and buy more things to take out. Anyway, they had THE cutest new set of Easter mugs!( Hey, the money went to feed the needy! And my grandkids will only be little for so long.)
Can you blame me?
The biggest problem, (besides the expense), is where to store seasonal dishes. They take up room, they are often ‘cute-shaped’ so they don’t stack well. Placed in boxes, they are easily broken because they are moved around, heavy things are stacked on them or, if your temperatures fluctuate a great deal, the dishware can easily crack when stored in an unheated garage or storage area. If you do need to store them outside the house or in an attic or basement, you have to find them in cold or hot weather, lug them in, make sure no bugs are in the boxes, wash them…then where do they go until you use them? And there is always the heartbreak of finding out too late that the dishes are ornamental and were not meant for food use,(either the paint or the ceramic has lead or other toxic residue), or that the pattern has come off in the dishwasher. (Lead levels are also a concern when considering crystal or metal serving-ware. Use these only for dry foods and line with a napkin, or line with plastic for moist foods.)
So what do I suggest? What I use more often than not? Glass serving-ware. Many people like silver services; if you have them, fine; go for it for your fancier occasions. No one knows when or why being served on silver platters became standard, but science has learned that silver has an antibacterial effect; it inhibits bacteria and keeps food fresher longer. Most of us don’t have silver and since it isn’t appropriate for casual serving, I also love to use, (and recommend), wood and baskets, in wood, cane, bamboo, straw, or metal.
[Examples of some of my serving glassware and crystal]
Glass, with baskets, wood with baskets, these are all you need to set a lovely table for any occasion, be it sit down, buffet or just snacks, and they go with any of your sets of dishes, glass, ceramic or china. They are useful for any holiday or any celebration, sports event or no special occasion. Do you want more of a holiday theme? Use holiday linens, or even paperware, or better yet, mix and match linens/paperware. Mix and match colors: red and browns for Thanksgiving, red and green for Christmas, red for Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July or many festive occasions, green for St.Patrick’s Day ,Earth Day or mix it with any pastels for Easter. With limited funds, try to at least find large, white or beige fabric napkins to line your baskets and wooden bowls when you serve breads, crackers and other dry items. You can add another color or paper napkin layered over the white. If storage is a problem or funds really are low, you can buy large white paper napkins and spread out the more expensive and colorful holiday/event-themed paper napkins this way, as well.
If you are handy with a sewing machine, you can run-up some different colored or holiday-colored liners and napkins, but that is not necessary.
And even if your funds are VERY limited, glass serving-ware is always available in thrift stores. Matching sets are not important; glass goes with glass and glass goes with everything. The same with wood and baskets, just be sure that you can thoroughly clean and sanitize any used item.(Some baskets will fall apart in your dishwasher. At the very least, you must immerse them in a bleach and cleaner solution or spray them with a kitchen cleaner that contains bleach or other antibacterial cleaner. Rinse thoroughly and dry in sunlight. The same applies to used wooden vessels.)
[Some metal and natural baskets with wooden servingware]
See, it is easy to set a nice table with what you can easily have on hand for any holiday, or get-together, from a full meal to snacks, without stress, with confidence and pride.