The Importance of Plates

October 28, 2003

The Importance of Plates
(photos for this will be up sometime soon…. check back….)

Eating, and really enjoying, a meal is not entirely judged solely on the food. Imagine an incredible dinner- served on paper plates and eaten with plastic forks and knives. Yuck. It kind of ruins the entire food experience. It really matters what the food is served on and in. Everyone seems to have plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, silverware, etc. that they love to use. Food feeds our bodies, the accouterments feed our souls. During the summer, with a houseful of relatives in Vinalhaven, we sit in the evenings and all enjoy our tea. The house is old and the collection of mugs quite diverse. Everyone has a mug that they try to claim each night. Sometimes there is one that is a favorite of several people. You just try to get there first if you care. Some do, and some don’t as much.

When I was young, I remember that I had favorite things for enjoying what went into my mouth. In the cupboard we always had a mishmash of things. There were sometimes several of one type of plate or bowl or glass, but sometimes, there was only one. The glass I always wanted to get for dinner had stars etched into the sides. It had come from my grandmother, and somehow it made my enjoyment of my beverage far superior to when I used the “regular” glasses. I don’t remember a special plate, but I do remember liking the little silver bowls we used for cereal and grapefruit halves in the morning.

Growing up a Haviland, we always had tons of Haviland china in the house. Piles of it in a special cupboard. It was fun being able to use different patterns. Some I loved and some I didn’t care for much. I loved being able to choose the ones we would use for dinner or dessert though. I somehow enjoyed the food more. I was allowed to choose a pattern for when I got married and would need my own china. I chose Bergere, one with little blue cornflowers scattered around, and with a gold ring around the center area. My dad went to the factory in NJ to get it. The place settings he bought for me sat in a box for years, waiting for me to get married so I could have it to use. And now, I do use them, but only a few times a year.

In the meantime, I was growing and changing and discovering myself. I took a pottery class in college and tried making some things for myself. Most of the stuff was not worth keeping, but I do have a select few pieces I liked. I learned that I preferred the more down-to-earth pottery to fine china, It was more, well, me. I remember being introduced to Rackliffe Pottery when I worked at a summer camp in Maine. It was made right there and it was a beautiful earthy blue. I loved it and bought a mug to use that very summer. It felt good and soothing. Far better than those plastic cups in the dining room there. That summer, I had just come from being a student at Meredith Manor where the cafeteria food was served on those trays that were the plate- with sections for the different parts of your meal (as if we were in the military or something). It was definitely not a gastronomically pleasurable experience, no matter how much fun we had in that cafeteria (and we did have fun there).

My next wonderful pottery experience came when I baby-sat for a family nearby, while I was living with my parents. To my amazement, there was a whole set of Rackliffe Pottery in the cupboard! But what I really loved was the set of Sparrowhawk Pottery. I later moved in with that family for a short while and was able to enjoy using it daily. I also had the pleasure of meeting Aileen Sperber who made all of it. She came to dinner one night and was wonderful company. I quickly made friends with her and purchased a few things. As a gift, my friend gave me a mug, that is still my favorite to this day.

When the time finally came for my wedding, we did the customary registry of gifts we would enjoy. Both Adam and I practically flew over to Aileen Sperber’s house in Canton to arrange for a set to be made for us, for our guests to purchase if they so chose. She was excited to create a pattern we would like and we chose an earthy blue/green/cream design. To this day, these are my favorite things and one of my most cherished items. People have been told that if there’s a fire- save my pottery!!!! I enjoy my food on these plates and usually guests comment on the collection (I have added to it over the years). I was proud when our Japanese neighbor seemed in awe of the pottery, and showing his appreciation for the handiwork!

Unfortunately Aileen cannot make any more, which is a disappointment for both me and for her. I had one last thing I had wanted her to make. Someday I will hunt for someone to make them for me. For now, I enjoy my Sparrowhawk, my few Jugtown Pottery “noggins”(earthy green), my tall skinny glasses, simple but beautiful flatware, my pie plate from North Haven (earthy blue and cream), and of course my fondue pot. I love cooking in my Le Creuset pots and serving in them as well.

Take the time to enjoy your food in a way that appreciates it as well. Sure, have your lunch out on the porch on a paper plate- there is a time and a place. But make sure you take the time to appreciate the many other options as well to feed your soul.

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