Tuesday, October 13, 2009

acquiring china

acquiring china

Mr. Hoo is a patient man, and not one for clutter. It took a while for the question to arise because it took a while for the cupboards to brim over with the fine bone china stuff.

It took awhile but eventually, last night, he did ask: What is all this?

I don’t know, I told him, but I think it has something to do with Grama.

I’ve been acquiring china. Twice now I’ve been married and not once did I register for the things girls register for. My china has long been a mashup of expedient pieces acquired as needed, and gifts received.

Chief among the gifts are pieces from the Noritake Angela pattern that my grandmother used when we were young. She sent it my way in the ‘90s when she acquired a complete replacement set from my aunt of something altogether different, hand me down china lush with English botanicals.

The Noritake Angela pattern is not lush.

It is simple and serene. It is to the point and appropriate for the purpose.

It is detergent proof.

Grama passed along to me a tall stack of dinner and salad plates, and an assortment of fine china tea cups. Delicate all, and most have not survived. The remnants that did were chipped and sometimes scuffed from many cuts into many steaks with the lovely scrimshaw knives that my grandparents acquired in Alaska.

Since her death I’ve been trawling eBay and acquiring pieces of the discontinued pattern. The salad plates were long gone, shattered in random incidents. They have been replaced and multiplied. As have the tiny bread and butter plates; delicate all, not bone china but bone china like, rimmed with a fine pursed lip like the English teacups I picked up in Vancouver.

I’ve opted for two pieces that I never saw in my grandmother’s collection: a platter and a serving bowl, because their scale was just right (diminutive, of another era) and the lines were simple, pure, as they should be. I’ve opted out of others -- the tidbit tray with the ornate silver handle protruding from the center, the bulbous covered casseroule dish -- because the aesthetics were untrue to what I recall of the spare mid-century modern lines that limned my grandparents’ home. That outlined my one true home.

This last weekend I chased down some saucers to give three tiny china cups a foundation to stand on, and determined that really as long as I was piecing these I should pick up three more china cups and six saucers total to add to the four complete that I already --- oh dear. Soon I can serve coffee to ten.

It is unlikely I will ever serve coffee to ten, and will instead have to explain to Mr. Hoo why the cupboard is full of sweet tiny teacups, empty boned vessels, that conjure to my grieving eye the morning steam and mist of coffee brewing in my Grama’s kitchen.



Elefanterosado said...

a beautiful tribute to your Gramma. I understand the full-to-brimming heart behind the compulsion. I, too, have cupboards full to overflowing with my grandmother's china. And until the last piece breaks, I won't buy anything new.

anne said...

oh - kay....

I have this EXACT china in my kitchen cupboard right now!

I thought your description of dishes sounded very close to what my family and I eat off of every day... and the detergent proof sealed it. I went to the cabinet just now, and verified that what is on the back of the salad plate (107 Angela) on which I served myself a bagel this morning is exactly what you show!

The china was a wedding gift to my parents from from my mother's parents, 50 years ago (see details here: http://twooffour.blogspot.com). I acquired it before I was married, probably 20 years ago, as my parents wanted something more decorative for their own simple kitchen.

I love the china also, even though it is showing wear from everyday use - several pieces are cracked and chipped. My husband would like to replace it. However, we cannot find anything on which we both agree, so we keep using the plain white stuff.

I, too, like its simple clean lines and the way the food takes center stage on the plate. The pieces are classic... 50 years later, they serve their purposes of holding food shared by a family.

Thank you for writing!

suttonhoo said...

that is way too cool, anne. and good to know, because I'm in danger of acquiring too much of it -- maybe you'll take some of this overflow off my hands? ;)

small world. I like that.

SarahB said...

Thank you for sharing this. I understand - I have my grandmother's china too. It wasn't her wedding china, but her 25th anniversary china, a gift from their friends when my grandfather was dying. My grandmother died a few years later. Both died years before I was born. The china was boxed up to be given to her future first grand-daughter. I don't have room for it. I don't use it. I don't even need it. But I keep it and just knowing it's there is enough.

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