We had a large crew of family and friends for Christmas dinner. This is unusual. Neither of us is a particularly good cook. Both of us find cooking for others anxiety-producing (which makes us worse cooks). As a result of 1 and 2, we don’t often have people in for dinner. Which puts us out of practice, which makes for more anxiety and even worse cooking.
Nevertheless, we have good friends and good family and It Was Time. We turned this dinner into a potluck (I told you they were good friends) which guaranteed good food from the others, who are Good Cooks.
In preparing for the event, however, the house had to be cleaned and the serving preps done. And in cleaning and preparations, I came to some revelations.
Our collection of plates is pathetic,. This is particularly peculiar when you realize that we are of an age when the least we could have is a matched set of plates and saucers and pie plates and serving dishes for 12 — or 16. After all, even my mother, who was also a bad cook but didn’t try for anything much better, had her “best” plates in a china cabinet and could serve 20 without a single paper plate in evidence.
Us, well, we have some few nice plates, some few lesser plates, and some bought-in-a-panic-at-Pretty-Good-Stuff plates.
These are our “pie” plates (which might also be seen as “cake” plates.) 4 (on the top) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, no longer available. One from an artisan on an island in the Gulf of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland, bought on vacation. Two bright ugly blue ones were bought from Freddy’s (local discount store) in a panic, and three, on the bottom, from Pier 1, when they were still a cheap import store.
During the cleaning stage of the dinner prep, I realized that our toaster oven is a disgrace. Oh it toasts, about as good as any we ever had which isn’t very good but still adequate; but it’s 25 years old and the white coating on the top has worn off and rusted a bit underneath and of course there are bits of burned on debris that long ago stopped off-gassing. It works. It just looks awful.
And we have to extend our dinner plate collection (which are actually luncheon plates because I like that size) with bits from “Pretty Good Stuff” if we have more than 7 for dinner.
But — and this was the moment of revelation — the toaster still toasts. And the pie plates hold chocolate torte just fine. And Pretty Good Stuff has really funky funny plates that don’t match anything at all and hence make the dinner conversation proceed. And — here comes the revelation — if we were to go in for a matching set of 16, and moreover, buy comfy, heavy living room furniture instead of the lightweight, (sometimes) comfortable stuff that I can shove around so I can do my art; if our cups all matched and had saucers and we had more than one good table-cloth — if these things were in the household, then we couldn’t take off for Beattie, Nevada and paint the Sourdough Saloon and the Amargosa Desert. We couldn’t do Wikipedia photos of tiny desert streams in eastern Oregon and paint the old car along the old ruts of Route 66 in eastern Arizona. We wouldn’t have 3 pentatonic flutes and be learning each day to caress them in different ways. We wouldn’t have really good computer equipment and moreover, we would have to go shopping and have a Lifestyle rather than just a way to live.
So, our dining service as well as food is a bit, um, pathetic, but our travel adventures and lifestyles are rather nice.
And we do have some interesting artifacts that brighten up the motley table service. At some point I bought 16 large wine glasses. We use them for toasts and they ring nicely when clicked together, and with 16, there’s room for breakage.
And somewhere along the way, not at Pretty Good Stuff but someplace like it, I acquired an odd number of depression sorbet (or sherbet, or pudding) bowls, which I bring out only for grand occasions, like Christmas dinner.
There’s always someone who can’t eat chocolate torte (poor thing), who then deserves the Haagen-Dazs Sorbet in a light-changing pudding cup. And with those cheerful thoughts — the ring of the toast to the season, the sorbet in the weird and wonderful colored bowls, and travels to my desert places to paint and write — well, who cares about matching dinner plates? Even the fact that they are luncheon, not dinner, plates, means you get to refill them often without guilt. With your friends’ good food, of course.
I am, however, thinking of getting one good comfy chair for watching our nightly movie in. It’s on the list, along with the artist-in-residency applications that need filling out. –June