Friday, March 23, 2012

On The Dire Implications of Mismatched Dishware

Open the kitchen cupboards of a young singleton and you will most likely find jumbled stacks of mismatched plates, bowls, and mugs. These are individual pieces inherited from friends who have moved away, garage sales, previous roommates, forgetful party guests, and thrift stores with great kitsch selections.

When I open own my own cupboards and see an array that looks mostly like this, I wonder where and when people do get matching dishware. My sister, recently engaged, informs me that wedding registries are commonly used to collect an entire set of bone-white china. Well great, I think to myself. Weddings! My single self throws her arms up in defeat.

I do, though, love the histories behind my uncoordinated collection. The mugs that I know transform into the best vessels for drinking wine after all the wine glasses have inevitably broken; the serving platters originally from Egypt, gifted to me one morning at work by the elderly regular customer whose wife was making him clean house; the gnome mug found in a box left on the curb. Each unique piece has a meaning to it, so then why do I also get so much satisfaction out of a consistent, matching set?

The only matching dishware I own is a small stack of dinner plates and bowls, gleaned from dusty  boxes found in my parents' basement. They are beautiful in a rustic sort of way: speckled off-white surrounded by a light brown non-glazed brim, many of which are quite chipped. When I have a meal with these matching bowls and plates, I feel like my life is just a bit more put together. Dishes that actually come from the same place and have managed to stick together make me forget that I've lived in eight different apartments in three different countries in the last six years. A meal with matching dishware implies the fact of being settled, a status that I treasure admittedly because it is a grass that is always greener.

Aside from their implications of adulthood, matching dishes are important to the hungry singleton's joy of living because they are the bones to a purposefully composed meal. Purposeful plates, as I've stated before with my ode to garnishes and presentation, are key to bringing joy and intention to the act of eating. When we eat alone, it's all too easy to merely shove away some newspapers to make a clearing on the table just big enough to fit a bowl and a beverage. But if we feed ourselves as if we were feeding company, the whole table gets cleared, maybe even lovingly adorned with a place mat or tablecloth, and we create a place setting for one. To elaborate on the terminology: a setting tells us where and when. A thoughtfully selected group of dinnerware really announces that the here and now is mealtime, all our other worries and to-do lists be damned. Welcome, such a table says, it's dinner time.

Of course, I'm not one to be didactic about your dishes actually matching. If you really love the way that your tin camping plate looks next to the modern uniformity of a bowl from Ikea, then by all means. And if you do opt for matching, then as a single person you have it quite easy: you really only need one matching set!

Let's not forsake table setting, even if it is just set for one. Start with a plate you love, top it with food you love, then fill your belly with love.

1 comment:

  1. This is why I love Fiestaware--since it's intentionally meant to be mixed and matched by color (if you want), it's so much easier to build a collection piecemeal versus other lines that you have to worry about patterns going by the wayside.