Eclectic Wares

Remember when picking out your china pattern was a thing?  Probably not, if you were born in the last two or three decades.  For those of us who are a bit older, brides were encouraged to pick out a pattern or brand of fine china so friends and family could purchase sets of it as wedding gifts.  This of course harkens back to the days when apparently young couples would host large family gatherings and everyone would sit down at a dining table laden with “the good china.”  Sure, wedding registries are still nifty, but I’m doubtful that anyone now is asking for 8 – 10 sets of fine china.  When I got married (the first time) in the 80’s, I dutifully picked out a blue floral pattern from Noritake. It was lovely.  My then-husband and I received several sets and serving pieces and my parents thought it important to purchase any “remaining” pieces so we’d have a full set.

A few months ago, during pandemic purging, I came across a box of the dear ol’ Noritake china. My first husband and I have been divorced for 25+ years. The china was still pretty. Still largely unused. I believe I may have pulled it out literally a handful of times over all those years. Even as “long ago” as the 80’s, very few young married couples ever had more than a handful of people over for a meal, and rarely was it fancy. And for some reason, I had dutifully moved that china several times over the past many years.  Yes, I know, some of you are going to say that I should have just used it as every day plates rather than keeping it in a box. But it was the kind of china with a metal inlay, that could not go in the microwave and shouldn’t go in the dishwasher.  It was far easier and more comfortable for me to take a trip over to Pier 1 every few years and purchase 4 or 6 fun new patterned plates and bowls.  When they got chipped or the glazing crackled, I’d replace some of them. Occasionally I’d get a new patterned plate or cute floral bowl simply because it made me smile. Eventually I created a unique – I prefer to call it eclectic – mix of dishes in my cupboard.  I kind of like having a mix of patterns and colors, and I’ve never had any guest stop and say “hey, my plate doesn’t match yours, what gives?”  Then again, I don’t host any major dignitaries who might even care. 

Meanwhile the fine china stayed in a box.  Until clean out.  I saved a couple large platters and donated the rest.  Perhaps someone else will use it every day and enjoy it.

My diverse collection doesn’t stop with dishes. The glassware cupboard is full of a mélange of cups, mugs and glasses that have accumulated over many years. Everything from engraved beer mugs from my husband’s single days to plastic poolside cups.  It’s a mess, but each item is in there for a reason.  I know I’m not alone in this kind of variety, because I’ve seen similar collections in friends and family’s kitchens. Souvenir mugs from vacations, children’s cups from bygone years, big colorful water goblets sitting next to delicate wine glasses. It’s like a glimpse into a family’s history and lifestyle.  Again, eclectic wares with purpose.

But there’s one area of the kitchen that just completely befuddles me: the silverware drawer.  I recall clearly picking out a big set when I got married to my current hubby. We both were involved in the selection, and to this day my husband prefers to ONLY eat with that same set of forks.  Something about the balance in his hand. What can I say, he’s kinda feng shui about how he eats.

Over the years however, other forks, spoons and knives have snuck into our existence. And I don’t know how or from where they came.  Now, I’m assuming at least a few may have come from past places of employment by accident, and if I could remember from where, or thought it really mattered, I’d return them.  I suppose a couple could have drifted in from inexpensive sets I purchased for camping, or some maybe some I bought for my son to use at college and he didn’t?  But that really doesn’t explain the extensive variety. Just yesterday I was emptying the dishwasher and stopped to layout a handful of silverware and I swear I’ve never seen some of it before.

There is a Facebook group called Grown and Flown; it is made up of parents of children who are moving away from home, either for school, or work or just venturing into the world of adulting. Lately there have been a series of hysterical posts about parents searching for silverware that has disappeared after being used by their teens and 20-somethings. They have found forks and spoons under beds, in duffle bags, even on the front lawn.  I am starting to wonder now if there’s some cosmic force that has made their utensils appear in my drawer.

At some point, unlike with my plates, bowls and glasses, I need to do a major clean out and shop for a new set of silverware. I’m not sure why the assortment of utensils bothers me when everything else in my kitchen is a hodgepodge. But it – pardon the pun – eats at me. One thing for sure is my hubby needs to be involved in the future set selection.  He may not care what the food gets served on, but he certainly cares how it feels to scoop it up.

I know some of you RW’s out there have a very matchy-matchy kitchen, with full sets of everything so your world of eating and entertaining is consistent.  When I visit folks like you, I kind of feel like I’m visiting a grown-up’s house, and I’m still the college kid with hand-me-down pieces stored in milk crates.  I guess having a kitchen that looks like a photo shoot in a cooking magazine is not a priority for me.  It’s more about being comfortable, about how there’s a story behind nearly everything, about having items that carry memories or just make me, and the people who come into my kitchen, happy.  I’m an eclectic-wares kinda gal.

Except for those weird forks and spoons. Those have gotta go.

About Real Women

A "real woman" mom, wife, worker, friend, sister, daughter....
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