Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dinnerware Philosophy

Okay, before I wade in here, let it hereby be known: I want comments on this post. Please! Pretty please with sugar on top! I don't care if you comment anonymously; I'll approve any comment so long as it's decent and not spam. I want some opinions, and I want those of you who think you don't have an opinion on this to come up with one and share it with me.

BTW, this is one of my random posts, so I expect that the comments might be random, too. That's good, that's what we need here...y'all are my therapists...help me out here. Because it's random, I have to use bullet points. I think in bullet points.

•Do you know anyone else crazy enough to want to develop a Philosphy Of Dinnerware?

•We were talking around here the other day about inviting a group of 10-15 people over, and in the course of the discussion it came up that we do not have enough dessert plates or bowls to feed that many people.

•We've fed dessert to a group that size before by using both plates and bowls. But if we were to serve something that specifically required a bowl or a plate, we would not have enough of either.

•We used to have enough of everything to feed 16 people.

•The set of 16 place settings were this neat swirly bistro-looking pattern in cobalt, spring green, and yellow on a white background. We got all 16 settings for $40 at K-Mart. We live large. (Before this we had pink and gray Pfaltzgraff, about which the less said the better.)

•After 10 plus years of use the K-Mart dishes got really nasty and chipped and scraped up. So I started out looking for something to replace them.

•My goal was to buy "everyday dishes" and use them for company also, but then start accumulating "good dishes" to use for company.

•Thanks to a series of fortuitous Ebay purchases, we ended up with a lot of blue transferware. We have enough dinner plates to feed an army, a handful of small plates, ditto small bowls, and a bunch of tea cups with fiddly little handles that infuriate men with large fingers.

So, that brings us to where we are today. Now, where I need help is this: I am overthinking this issue to the Nth degree. The simple way to handle things would be to get on Ebay and buy some blue transferware dessert bowls and plates. And also some cups with decent handles. But it gets sticky...so here are the philosophical/practical/stupid questions messing with my brain:

•Transferware does not seem to have been made in any kind of robust, manly, coffee mug shape.

•I dream of someday having china cabinet full of creamy ivory china with gold rims. In the china cabinet I would also have miscellaneous pieces of other china in different colors and styles which I would effortless combine with the basic ivory pieces to create beautiful "tablescapes" for all occasions.

•Tom is concerned that guests would feel uncomfortable eating on dishes with gold rims. Even though we know that "good china" is usually more durable than inexpensive stoneware, and even though those gold rims can go in the dishwasher. He still thinks we would be rude to make our guests feel uncomfortable by using them.

•I like too many different kinds of dishes to make up my mind. But if I buy a place setting of each thing I like, will the table look chaotic?

•If I have all blue and white dishes on the table is it overwhelming?

•Do people feel pressured to eat lightly if the plates are too small? The blue and white plates are a little over 9 inches; most modern dinner plates are at least 11 inches. Will my company feel like they are being put on a diet with small plates?

•In my opinion, most food looks good on blue plates. Am I just biased because I like blue? Do any of you hate the look of food on blue? In your opinion, what would be a better background color?

•I saw an online discussion recently where some people said that it is "snobbish" to use nice dishes when one entertains. These people recommended paper plates or inexpensive plastic plates to make guests feel comfortable.

•Do you notice dishes and tablesettings when you eat at someone's house? Or do you notice the food more? Or are you a conversation and people person? (I thought I noticed dishes, until Natalie and I tried to remember what kind of dishes several friends have and came up almost blank...and I know we've eaten off of something other than paper plates at these folks' houses.)

So, if you were a Dinnerware Counselor, what would you suggest I do? Please feel free to share your opinions even if you've not been in our house. I promise to take any and all suggestions seriously even if you say something like "carve bowls out of birchbark".

Speak out, speak up...vote for something that really matters. :)


Natalie said...

I promise to take any and all suggestions seriously even if you say something like "carve bowls out of birchbark".

Provided they tell us how to do so, and direct us to a reliable source of birch bark. That would be pretty neat looking...

Rebecca said...

If you really want my random opinions...

There are some transferware mugs on Ebay with handles bigger than teacup handles, but maybe not big enough for the large-fingered people you're having over :)

The gold rims wouldn't bother me, although it might depend on who they belonged to...

I personally like five thousand colors on the table, but everyone seems to think my table would look chaotic. I really like the blue and white ones and food really does look better on blue! And if the plates were smallish I'd just go back for seconds :)

I usually don't remember specific dinnerware, but I would remember whether it was nice dishes or just paper plates (unless it was Fiestaware or something else I obsess over)...personally, I don't like paper plates whether or not people are over.

I seem to have lots of opinions about dinnerware (maybe not a philosophy, though)...and I have not even gotten started on my coffee-drinkers-with-big-fingers rant...that is a blog post for another day...

So, if you were a Dinnerware Counselor, what would you suggest I do?

Just follow your heart. That's what I do. :D

Jim said...

A certain fine tune by Styx just keeps running through my head...

Beth said...

Mr. Roboto??

Jim said...

Try again... the Cat's husband knows the tune. It's a track from "Paradise Theater."

jennwa said...

Wow ! I have never thought that much about it. I do not entertain that much, but I too someday plan to have nice china that matches.
I do not feel uncomfortable eating off of nice china when I go to someones house. It is nice they feel I am that important to bring it out.
But with that being said, a lot of times when I entertain I use Styrofoam plates when people come over. (We have cook outs). Other wise the plates would not match. Do not get me wrong I like things to look nice and match but when people come over it is about the friendship and conversation not the the plates, and not even really about the food. So I guess I feel no matter what you have it is nice and do not stress over plates. I hope I did not ramble to much and sound snotty.
Anyway,I used you comment in my post about using words they can sound out or are learning. That was a great idea to include Thanks.
See you soon.

Beth said...

Rebecca, of course I want your random opinions! This is THE blog of randominity...randomness...something like that. :)

I will keep looking for the bigger-handled mugs on Ebay; I did see some there yesterday that are more mug-like than teacup-like. This coffee-drinkers-with-big-fingers rant sounds interesting; don't forget to blog about it when the move is over.

My heart wants to buy a place setting of every neat-looking china out there, but if I follow that my husband will be...uh...maybe more than a bit perturbed. :) My advice for you and Andrea and Natalie (and any other single women reading this) is to buy dishes and stuff that you really like before you get married! Then you can present the issue to your husband as a fait accompli "Oh, we don't have to waste all that time picking out dishes to register for; I have four different sets already!" My husband claims this would have worked on him, and he's more interested in home decor decisions than any other man I know. Once you get them involved then you run into all kinds of issues you never knew existed.

BTW, I don't mean that as disrespect to my husband. He knows he's like this, and we've worked out some compromises. I had no decorating experience or taste whatsoever when we got married, so that's part of the problem.

Anyway, thank you for speaking up!

Beth said...

Jennwa, thanks for stopping by and for commenting! I appreciate your insight, and you certainly did not ramble or sound snotty!

You make good points about entertaining being about the friendship and conversation, and that's very important. I mentioned in my post that I have friends whose dishes I can't even remember...and I think it's because they are great hostesses who focus on the friendship and don't fret about the details. I want to be like that when I grow up. :)

Beth said...

Jim, Mr. Cat saw your comment before I did, and he immediately knew which song you meant. I was just being deliberately obtuse.

We can't all be as busy as you are, you know. :) Somebody has to sit around and do the thinking in this world or everybody would be bouncing around in highly-caffeinated adrenaline-rush mode and the world would be a mess.

Or maybe I should say...in order for me to be as busy as you, I would have to be highly-caffeinated and fueled by adrenaline. I did that for too many years and I'm paying for it now!

Rebecca said...

Then you can present the issue to your husband as a fait accompli "Oh, we don't have to waste all that time picking out dishes to register for; I have four different sets already!"

That's what I was planning on doing with my Fiesta :D

And I think it's time for me to stop with the Napoleon Dynamite quotes...nobody else seems to know what I'm talking about and they just assume I'm even more insane than they thought :)

Beth said...

What...what...Napoleon Dynamite? Oh, the "just follow your heart"!!!

Duh... Or, rather...Gosh!

When I first read your comment I thought that seemed maybe a bit...un-Rebecca-ish? But I thought, well, maybe she just feels a real emotional attachment to her Fiesta dishes. :)

Plus I was too busy dealing with your dad and his Styx lyrics. Styx...as if.

daisy said...

To take your points in order:
Maybe Tom is the one who feels uncomfortable with gold rims and not the guests.

Lots of different china patterns can be chaotic but only if you don't set the table with confidence in the perfect rightness of your choice. Keep them somewhat matched either in colors or patterns.

All blue and white overwhelming?
No. Boring.

Smaller plates make people feel they're eating more -- the plate is crowded with food.

It's never snobbish to treat people well if you invite them. If you are comfortable with nice things I assume you have friends who are also. Meaning paper plates are for picnics.

Have fun with all the different sides of who you are. Maybe get 3-4 different 5-piece place settings and see if you like mix/match in practice as well as theory

mandolinartist said...

I have to reread some things, but for now, perhaps you should
-take the event into consideration.
-think of what the quests would like or not like.
-make food that could work with plastic or disposeable plates, even if you had to wash the plates and did not dispose of them.

I do notice dishes and rugs and decorations and probably other ridiculous details that not everyone would notice.

You could just mix and match everything and dress tacky as well for a 'costume-type' party, and then everyone will think you did it on purpose.

(If you get all your prospective guests to read your blog, they will understand the dilemma in the Cat Household and will just be relieved that you were able to come to some kind of conclusion and plan your event after all without any 'Cats' losing their tongues or tails in the process.)

Jim said...

Finally, a few free minutes for a deeply meaningful comment...

- Small plates are a wicked thing for those of us who like to keep our cold and hot food separate (i.e., we don't like gravy in our Jell-O).

- I'd much prefer to eat large quantities of good food served on large, yet plain plates than to eat small quantities of plain food served on the most artistic set of tableware you could imagine.

- My OCD-influenced brain finds great comfort in uniformity. Tableware can be flashy or drab, black or white, cheap or expensive - but my plate should be clean before I use it, and it should look the same as yours. :)

- If I were in your shoes (you'd need new ones, of course), I'd be more likely to acquire a set of tableware that won't be out of style next year - and that simply rules out all the entire "let's mix colors and shapes and styles and just be SOOO happy!" approach. In a year or two, you might as well have a set of Harvest Gold kitchen appliances to go with 'em...

Why not get some nice Corelle and be done with it?


Rebecca said...

Someday we should have Thanksgiving at my house and we can all have a good laugh when he has a heart attack over the way my gravy is touching my cranberry sauce (yummy!)...or the fact that my plate is green and his is yellow and Natalie's is blue.

Or not.