Spodes Gloucester: One generation's daily dishes can become another's heirloom.Choosing the right china wardrobe is challenging. Different criteria conflict. The decisions are difficult to reverse. And family history is often involved.
This balancing act can seem impossible. Subverting quality and taste for disposability is depressing. Going too formal and overly high maintenance only serves to make all involved nervous.
However, at its core, the right wardrobe should be assembled and used by the same criteria as clothes, cars, accessories, and furniture. Most importantly, dishes give a feeling that needs to be appropriate for and aligned to the situation.
This means that it is critical, when one plans their dish wardrobe, to think in terms of four distinct categories.
- There are the informal everyday dishes which need not be unattractive, but should be somewhat easily replicable.
- There are the in between dishes, used at gatherings or other notable occasions, which can include old and or handed down dishes. (Hand washing may be required, which in and of itself, can be pleasurable.)
- There is the more formal china, in both materials and patterns.
- And there are holiday dishes.
I can't stand living with objects that I have to tiptoe around and hardly dare to touch. I like to be able to sit on chairs, eat at tables, drink from glasses and collapse onto beds without feeling that I am committing sacrilege or risking breakage and financial ruin. I now live with furniture and objects that are either virtually indestructible or easily replaceable. Old, perhaps, but sturdy. I avoid fragility.You should own your possessions. Your possessions should not own you.
A few chips can go a long way in eliminating tension around china. To quote Tasha Tudor, "I would rather use a thing and have it broken than hide it in a box and never see it."
Second, across all categories, with very few exceptions, old or new, the best dishes are made in England. The English excel in this category and manage to, like in so many other categories as well, effortlessly combine high quality and great taste with a low key feel. Limoges, from France, in contrast, is of very high quality, but mostly falls into formal and tense category.
Finally, tension ensues when one's goal is to impress, not share. Dishes are an expression of graciousness. They are there to make everyone feel comfortable and enjoy the gathering, not draw attention.