Saturday, March 5, 2011

Good Dishes, Bad Dishes

Susan over at e-i-e-i-omg! wrote a sweet post yesterday featuring her mother's lovely set of dishes now in her possession. Among other things, Susan commented that these special dishes (her mother's "good" set) held many memories of her.

I've got to be honest and admit I've never understood having an everyday set of dishes and a "good" set of dishes. Why should I have a "good" set that I use only when having company? Why not use those "good" dishes everyday for those people I love the most and who are nearest and dearest to me? What!? They should get the "inferior" dishes to eat off of? No, I should use the "good" dishes for them. (Or maybe I would pull out the plain, old, not-so-nice, everyday dishes for company I wasn't really crazy about.)

I grew up in a household that did, indeed, have two sets of dishes. My mom's good dishes were lovely. Small, delicate rosebuds on a white background. (Come to think of it, what happened to those dishes? I have no idea where they are. Do you have them, brother of mine?) Mom took them out whenever a special dinner was served or the holiday season rolled around.

I've had only one set of dishes all my years of married life. Hubby's aunt gave us a wedding gift of money to put toward household dishes. We ate off a tinware camping set of dishes until I decided on the real dishes I wanted. My choice was Franciscan dinnerware in the Apple pattern. These were the only dishes I had and I used them year in and year out for about forty years.

Then one year for Christmas my mom gave me a set of holiday dishes so I started taking them out for Thanksgiving and using them through the holidays and then putting them away again after New Year's. What a pain! I didn't have any extra room to store the dishes in the house so when I brought out the holiday dishes, I had to pack my Apple dishes away in boxes and carry them back to a storage shed and arrange the holiday dishes in my kitchen cabinets. Come the first of January, I would reverse the process, pack away the holiday dishes and bring the everyday dishes back into the house. Well, that time-consuming, arduous process didn't last too many years, let me tell you.

So the holiday dishes ended up staying permanently packed away in the storage shed for several years. I mentioned to my daughter that I was thinking of selling them (no, I'm usually not a saver . . . if I don't use it, I get rid of it) but because they were from her grandma, she said she would like them. So that's where the lovely set of holiday dishes now lives, at my daughter's.

Okay, now I must confess that I lied to you. The Franciscan dinnerware is not the only set of dishes (besides the brief period that the holiday dishes complicated my life) I have had for everyday use.

When I started quilting, I made quilted place mats and some quilted tablecloths I really enjoy using. But the bold coloring and design of my Apple dishes severely limited the fabrics and colors I could use on the quilted projects. I got it into my head that I wanted an all-white set of dishes that would enable me to go wild with my choice of quilting fabrics for the table. I looked for two or three years but couldn't find a set of plain white dishes that I both liked and could afford.

Then a couple of years ago, my dear brother-in-law heard of my quest for new dishes. It just so happened that he owned a ceramics business and one of the contracts he had was to produce the Bauer line of pottery. He sent me a complete set of all-white dishes (refusing any payment!) which I've been using since then.

No, I didn't sell my Apple dishes. They are boxed up and stored in a safe place, because my daughter said she'd never speak to me again if I sold them as they hold so many memories from her growing up years. For some reason, I'm not ready to hand them over to her (she'd gladly accept them . . . her holiday dishes must be lonely) quite yet because . . . well, they hold lots of memories for me, too. After all I used them for over forty years day in and day out. They were my good dishes, my bad dishes, my everyday dishes . . . and I can't part with them.


Erin said...

I agree wholeheartedly! You can't beat white dinnerware for showing off the food itself, which is where the real love & "special treatment" of guests is displayed! To be honest, I'm so disinterested in dinnerware patterns and the like that I usually don't notice what it's on, I'm just there for the food :)

Oh, unless it's "Corelle"... then don't be surprised if I try to talk you into watching me do one of my college tricks of throwing it onto the floor and watching it bounce and not break, hehee! My roommate's mom gave her a huge set of Corelle and we used to do that all the time! Her mom would have passed out if she saw us do that to her beautiful white dishes with the avacodo & harvest gold trim LOL

LindaCO said...

Nice post! It's got me thinking about the dishes that were my grandmother's that are still at my sister's house. Do I want them? Hmmm. Should I have them? Probably. Do I want to store them to bring out on nice occasions? Dunno.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

I would really hate to have fine dinnerware because it all breaks (But I do own my Grandmothers set -somewhere) Erin, we have even broke several pieces of corelle. Let me tell you, if it hits the floor just the right way it shatters into a million pieces. And I hate to admit this, but since my Husband gets home so late, he will often just eat his meal right out of the cooking pan. We are so classy here ;)

odiie said...

I felt the same way about my grandmother's good flatware. It was given to me after she died. I thought I should use it everyday and not just when we had company. My parents were both shocked and told me that it wasn't a good idea. I still use it, but we have lost pieces for it over the years, which may be why I should have saved it for good only. But then, we wouldn't have enjoyed it as much.

Kelly said...

I used my china frequently before I had kids. I kept 4 place settings in the kitchen and only pulled out the rest for holidays.

Now I never use it. We use paper at Christmas because I only have 12 place settings of the fancy stuff (not enough to go around), and will no formal dining room or hutch the china is buried away in the basement. I have secret hopes that some day we will add on, and I will have room for hutch to display my lovely china.

Jane said...

I don't own special dishes for guests either. If my company can't eat off the same dishes as myself and my family, then I guess they can stay home.Blessings jane

Erin said...

Jane, macaroni & cheese is best served with a fork right out of the pan LOL, I'm convinced there is no other way!

Anonymous said...

I don't have a special set. I always thought it'd be fun to have a holiday set but i don't want to store it. My mom's tried to give me a set of china that my step-dad got when he was in the service. I pointed out that she has never once taken it out for holiday dinners.

mtnchild said...

While growing up I don't recall ever having a special set of dishes; and I am grateful since I had to do the dishes and was always afraid of breaking something.

I don't have a good set either, mine are every day white from Wal-Mart. I got rid of the coffee cups and saucers that came in the set as everyone I know use coffee mugs. I'm basic and plain, and so is my house and my life. Don't get me wrong, I love my life, but I don't worry about the small stuff - I'd rather stop and smell the flowers.

Claire said...

As you know, we normally just eat off the floor. ;) I do have my dad and stepmom's dishes that we used growing up. They aren't a pattern I would have chosen myself, but I do love the memories I have of them.

Sparkless said...

My grandmother had a mixed collection of dishes that she used. I'm sure at one time she had whole sets but by the time I was a child she had a mixed collection and some of them were so beautiful that I actually remember them. When she sold her house she gave use a chance to take what we wanted. I took two plates. They are old and chipped and I don't use them but I do have them and one day will hang them up.

I'm also one of those who has 'good china'. I store it in the hope chest I made in school. They are all white except for a silver edge. I knew when I picked them I should go for something classic so I'd like them forever.

We rarely use my good china but I only have four place settings. I should get rid of it.

Sparkless said...

Forgot to add that my mom has a good set of china and she uses it on special occasions. She also has sterling silver cutlery that she uses when the good china comes out. It makes the occasion seem more special when the good dishes come out.

Mama Pea said...

Erin - Very good point about whatever dishes you have not being the focal point of a gathering around your table. It's the food and people who count!

LindaCO - Our pioneer ancestors were happy to have dishes period. Our lives these days what with all the choices we have are way too complicated!

Jane - Your hubby may be eating out of the pan . . . but it's wholesome, nutritious, GOOD food!

odiie - So you've lost a few pieces of the flatware. As I always say when we break something around here, "Well, if it were packed away and we weren't enjoying using it, it wouldn't have broken." What are we saving all this stuff for??

Kelly - I suppose if I had the room and a hutch for display, I might put out my Apple dishes as decoration. But I don't see us ever having that big a house.

Mama Pea said...

Jane2 - A gal after my own heart! ;o)

Ruth - Ha! Ya know why she's never taken it out? It's too much trouble!

Yvette - There is something to the fact that when we clutter up our lives with "stuff," it robs us of time for living. You're doin' just fine, Girl!

Claire - I think you just reminded us of the fact that it's not the material things that are important. It's the memories associated with those things. (I know you guys just eat off the floor but I didn't want to bring it up.)

Sparkless - Another good example of memories being the important things. Hope you hang those plates soon so you can look at them all the time!

Anonymous said...

My dish set is an ecclectic mix of garage sale and Goodwill finds, and I just love them! Although, I've always wanted to design and "pot" my own set, that's something I plan to do once I get settled down in the next 3-4 years!

PS: I made your potato/onion pie today! I changed it up slightly because I love anything creamy, I made a Parmesan sauce and added it to the pie, so it's almost like a scalloped potato dish, and very yummy! I'm using sweet onions I got at the market the other day, and I'll tell you...I'm so full right now, because I keep going back for more, lol! I had to divide it up and freeze the rest so I wouldn't eat anymore, lol! Great recipe, thanks!!! :)

Mama Pea said...

Rain - Hey, so glad the potato and onion pie worked out for you. A good potato dish almost always hits the spot, doesn't it?

Susan said...

In defense of the good/regular dishes distinction - and it IS an inadequate description - my feeling is that it is more about celebrating the occasion and the special foods served at those occasions than it is about making a distinction of whether the people eating off those dishes are 'special' or not. I would probably use the Wedgewood (I may never say "good" again...) more often if I could put it in the dishwasher. But, then again, they also clash with all my tablecloths! I like the idea of all white, or all one color. Then you can put out your 'good' tablecloths...heeheehee.

Amy Dingmann said...

You know I don't really think about the dishes we eat on. But now that you've pointed it out, we eat on my great grandma's china EVERYDAY. Isn't it crazy that I don't even think about it? Aw. Thanks for the post. The only time we eat off something different is Christmas Eve because my mom has special dishes she likes to dig out and have us use. :)

Sue said...

I swear my mom must have had 10 sets of dishes....she inherited them from both sides. We always ate on her everyday dishes-she actually loved them the most.

I have one set of 25 year old Corelles. I'm sick to death of the pattern. I've been trying to find a NICE set, MADE IN AMERICA. I've narrowed it down to Hartstone Pottery in Ohio. Now I just need to get myself to spend the $200 for a SET OF FOUR (YIKES!!!). Funny how we get a mindset of what stuff should cost. That's 2 nights in a hotel. I'd have these forever. But it just seems out of whack for a set of dishes. Sigh.
Mama Pea-knock some sense into me!

Mama Pea said...

Susan - In thinking about it, putting out special dishes on special occasions no doubt does contribute to the festive feelings. They are a small part of that makes the occasion different than the ordinary. I guess I'm just too lazy to go that route. ;o)

Mama Pea said...

Mama Tea - Wow, how many people have the opportunity to eat off their great grandmother's china?! I'll bet even if it's only subconsciously, you think of her frequently when using them.

Sue - You're asking the wrong person to knock some sense into your head regarding money. I've spent my life NOT spending money and now realize that has created some real "issues" for me. I'm thinking about buying new furniture when we get our remodeling done but it's gonna be a struggle. I read once you should never buy a piece of furniture just because it won't show the dirt or you think it will last forever. That totally explains ALL my furniture purchases! Not to mention they've all been second hand. When you get home, I want you to order those dishes from Hartstone Pottery but get a set of eight instead of four. Once the purchase is made you'll never miss the money and you'll have enough for any sit-down dinner you might want to have . . . and they will last you the rest of your life.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

We got a set of dishes for a wedding present - white with a simple blue line around the outside edge of the place from Pottery Barn. Was the person who bought those smart or what??

I also have a couple sets from my late MIL - one good china and one set of Blue Willow pattern collected piece by piece from thrift store finds over the years. I also have more china from my grandmother in a box someplace.

ALL of those dishes are in storage right now since we don't actually have a home in the US right now - and I guess whenever we do I better find a kitchen with A LOT Of cabinet space!!

Dirt Lover said...

I totally agree! We have two sets of dishes, but I love each of them, and we use them both. Some nights I'll use the brown ones, and some nights I'll use the blue and white ones.

Mama Pea said...

Jen - With that many dishes, you DO need a big kitchen! Or a dining room with a lovely, big hutch!

Lori - You must have very ample kitchen cupboards to hold two full sets of dishes! Lucky you!