Posts Tagged ‘Dishes’

Although fall does not technically end until the Winter Solstice, it is often felt to end with Thanksgiving, when all things Christmas and holiday ramp up in earnest. Today is Black Friday with all its manic sales and crazy competition, and one day of the year I am more than happy to stay put where I am.

But Thanksgiving was another story, and the perfect time to make a warming soup. Pictured is the Pumpkin Black Bean Soup I made, vegetarian, healthy, and delicious — onions, garlic, spices, black beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, and finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar. And served in one of my very favorite finds – black matte and gloss stoneware by Pfaltzgraff.

Presentation is an important aspect of food as we eat first with our eyes, so I love to photograph food. How rarely you see this in my posts is testament to how little time I have for cooking and baking nowadays, a sad comment as I truly enjoy doing both from scratch. And those lovely dishes? Though now closed, there used to be a Pfaltzgraff factory outlet, a dish-lover’s paradise, in nearby Flemington. A perfect bowl like this might run $8.00, but due to some usually invisible defect, it sold for $1.00, maybe two. Many mourned the outlet closing its doors, though it was a somewhat dangerous place for those who love dishes and cookware.

So while feeling spectacularly fortunate that I was able to buy such beautiful and durable stoneware for a pittance, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate I am in so many other ways — that in a world where people are shivering and suffering in the cold, I am able to have a safe, warm home; where people are dying of hunger, I can make a nourishing soup with the purest of ingredients; where people are in want of clean water – or any at all – I have what I need to make coffee and tea at the touch of a spigot.

And I am fortunate to enjoy the wonderful change of seasons where I live, golden fall easing into the chill and white of winter, so beautiful. For all these, and so much more, I am thankful.


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The Joy of Dishes

As I was looking at my newest and most (currently) favorite mug this morning, I felt a desire to write about dishes. What is it about dishes that is so incredibly wonderful? I will admit, I have plenty, and quite a few complete sets. But with rare exception, and this mug is one of them, (available here), I haven’t paid much – or anything at all – for them.

Just to give you an idea of the wonderful dishes that call my table and cabinets their own are the following … a set of Johnson Brothers china, (given me by my college roommate), a complete set of Vernon Ware, which is like a soft-hued Fiesta Ware, (dishes I grew up with),  a 1920’s set of hexagonal amethyst glass dishes, (I paid $15 at the first auction I ever went to with my friend, Jan, in the late 80’s), a Royal Doulton Art Deco tea set missing a sugar bowl, (dirt cheap on London’s Portobello Road in the mid-70’s), hand-thrown bowls, large and small, and serving dishes and casseroles, (all gifts), cobalt crystal tumblers, ( a gift), and …. a lovely assortment of “factory-second” sets from Pfaltzgraff’s factory outlet, ( at $1 and $2 per piece), when they were still open in Flemington. I also have a gorgeous set of hand-thrown stoneware glasses and plates to whose talented creators I happily paid a fair price. And, of course, the hand-thrown mug you see pictured. (In all honesty, there are still more odds and ends in more hand-thrown mugs, pie plates, glasses, serving platters, etc. gathered over the years.)

So what can we conclude from this? That I have tons of company for dinner? Nope, that’s not it. That I am a disaster to only myself when packing to move? Oh, yeah! That many of these dishes have sentimental value? Yup, that’s true, too. But the overriding conclusions are the following … the dishes that I have collected over the years are beautiful, and, in my estimation, a form of art. It’s true. Dishes are a relatively inexpensive – if you know where to shop – form of art.

But wait, there’s another conclusion. Dishes make food look wonderful. Food, one of the true delights in life, can be beautiful on its own when prepared, but placed on the right plate or served in the right bowl or dish, surpasses its own singular appeal. A table set with just the right dishes holding even the simplest of foods can be a form of art. Think of some of the best food magazine photographs – they have you salivating just looking at the food so beautifully presented. And behind every mouthwatering morsel is a carefully selected dish.

So that’s it – there’s joy in dishes because of their beauty as an art form all their own. (And just so you know … I had to actually resist photographing more of my dishes for this post … but maybe another time.)

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christmasplateHow does one know the Christmas season has begun? Ignoring the fact that the onslaught of marketing for the holidays has now begun shortly after Halloween to make commercialism at an all time high of 7-8 weeks,  what happens in your home that says Christmas will soon be coming?

For me, it’s the bringing forth of two different Christmas dishes – my humble, dollar store plates and my bright red, green and white decorated, coffee mugs.  I’ll admit that perhaps why they are the first manifestation of Christmas is that they are conveniently at hand, as are all my dishes, right there in a kitchen cabinet. But there’s something about putting away my winter mugs and replacing them them with the festive red ones, and putting away my stoneware plates in a lower cabinet, their upper spot now taken with these simple china plates, that gets hopes and dreams to stirring.

No doubt the dollar store plates were made in China, too, (the mugs were made in Germany), so as befits this time of celebration, each year I bless those who made and painted them and thank them for this small joy that marks the beginning of the season for me.

Christmas changes as we grow older … once it was the excitement of opening presents under the tree in the morning; later, coming home from college and seeing family and old friends; then through relationships, perhaps children, and so it goes. Each year becoming a little bit different, offering some slightly different gift. Christmas steadily brings the exchange of warm wishes of family and friends, some who we barely have time to keep up with during the year. Cards are still sent and received, and though sometimes in too much of a rush, we get them out and delight at the treasure in our mailboxes.

Among our gifts may be something thoughtful from someone unexpected, new friends, the comfort and love of old ones, new music that fits us just right, the book that we need to read exactly at this moment in time, a candle scent carrying us back over time … riches, all.  The care, preparation, hopes and dreams of each of our Christmas or holiday seasons always begins with one simple thing … something as simple as a dollar Christmas plate.

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