Moving, inheritances and china (vaguely food related)

September 5, 2013

This is it. Be on the lookout. Salad plates.

This is it. Be on the lookout. Salad plates.

(NOTE: This was a while back. As in maybe three weeks. You get it when you get it.)

I mean, you eat nice dinners on fine china, right?

We will see if my cooking tastes better on nice porcelain.  Because at the tender age of 58, having never owned a piece of fine china in my life, I have gone out today and purchased most of a set of china. Cheap. From a flea market. In remarkably good shape (as in nary a chip or crack in 44 pieces).

You see, when I got married the first time, the time I had all those showers and teas and such, it was in the ’70s. I was a flower child. My husband and I were going to go off up in the mountains and live without electricity, farming for subsistence, saving the earth, and generally being hippies. Fine china was not a factor in this lifestyle, so I didn’t register for any, choosing instead a good, sturdy ironstone (it had blue flowers on a cream background, as best I recollect). I am not sure what happened to it over the ensuing 40 years (yes, I was 18 when I got married the first time, and as stupid as one would expect at that age), but there is none left.

We never left Memphis, and we got divorced thee or four years later, but our hearts were in the right place. Subsequent marriages (OK, OK, I’m a slow learner in some respects) did not yield showers, teas, or a bunch of wedding gifts, nor did I miss them. Fine china was, quite simply, not a priority, and just about useless, so I never acquired any. Never saw the need for it.

Face it. This furniture cries for good china, right?

Face it. This furniture cries for good china, right?

Fast forward to 2010. Single for a decade (having finally seen the light in that regard), involved in a long-term, long distance relationship with the love of my life, who ups and dies of acute leukemia. And it’s still hard to type that without choking up.  Damn cancer in general, anyway. But eventually, I acquire his teenaged son, along with a fair amount of his belongings — books, art, and a dining room suite.

Now. This dining room suite. Paul lived in one of those ubiquitous (in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states) 1950s Colonial houses, which were adapted down here in God’s country to the ubiquitous four-square. Front door, staircase. Living room to one side, dining room to the other. Kitchen behind dining room. Small office/den behind living room. Half-bath tucked beneath the stairs. Three bedrooms and a bath up. You get the idea.

And Paul, history buff that he was, decided about 2003 when he came into an inheritance of his own that he’d decorate that house in as near authentic Colonial style as he could. He went so far as to reserach typical colors in Colonial homes, and used those in his decor. He ordered sconces from a reproduction specialist in Williamsburg to flank the fireplace. And he went on a mission to find a solid cherry, Queen Anne style dining room  suite, which would, by George, be made in the US.

Do you know how much furniture was made in the US in 2003? Not a heck of a lot. And one day, he and I were walking down the street in Burlington, NJ, where we were wont to go for lunch and visit my ancestors’ graves at the Quaker meeting house, when we strolled past a furniture store.

Be on the lookout. I need four of these.

Be on the lookout. I need four of these.

Paul stopped. He stared in the window. “That’s it. That’s the table and chairs I want.” We went in. And wonder of wonders, it was not only American made, but Pennsylvania made. Gorgeous, solid cherry, Queen Anne. It was an obscene amount of money. And he bought it. And, God love him, even though the table had leaves that would expand it to seat 12, and it’d comfortably seat six in its most contracted state, the man bought four chairs. Because, you know, he couldn’t conceive of an occasion that would bring more than two guests to his dinner table. Sigh.

Then he couldn’t find a china cabinet to match it, and he eventually contracted with an Amish craftsman out in Lancaster County to make one. Which he did. I don’t want to know what that cost. It would probably scare me. A serendipitous happening upon a Queen Anne style small buffet/serving cart completed the ensemble.

(So I am in the market for chairs that look like this. If you ‘n y’mama’n’em see any, let me know.)

Anyway. When this furniture came to live with me in 2010, I was living in a house which was entirely paneled in knotty pine. It had a tiny dining area. I knew I had no place for this lovely furniture, so into storage it went. And in storage it stayed until I moved last week, into a house which actually, thank you Sweet Baby Jesus, had a formal dining room. And out of storage it came.

And there it is, gracing my dining room. Dwarfing my dining room, truth be told, which is much too small to do justice to these beautiful pieces, which would hold their own in the grand dining room at Mount Vernon or Monticello. But here they are, and they are, let me just tell you, the most gorgeous pieces of furniture I have ever owned.

And I had No China to display in that utterly gorgeous china cabinet. And that just Would Not Do.

So, as I was browsing the flea market the other day when I was getting a bed frame for the spare bedroom, I came upon a stall which had several sets of china for reasonable prices. Including most of a set — 44 pieces — of Crown Royal, the Lovelace pattern. A muted gray floral design, framed by plain platinum bands. Simple. Classic. For 32 bucks. At 25 percent off.

I now own most of a set of china for the overwhelming price of $24. I can’t imagine but what dinner will taste wonderful on it. I need salad plates or bowls, two cups, three bread and butter plates and some serving pieces, which, on replacements.com, will cost me well more than four times more than the original set.  No matter. I can fake my way through a dinner party.

Or I could, if I had chairs enough for people to sit on.

You ‘n y’mama’n’em be looking for chairs for me.

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