When a Plate Is Not Just a Plate
Germaine Leece lives in Sydney, Australia, where she writes a blog called Some Home Truths, a collection of good cooking and meditations on the concept of home. She brings us a small essay today on our dishes — does our china have stories to tell?
I’m not sure when my obsession with old china and silver cutlery began but it was certainly reignited when my son dug up a piece of a china plate in our garden late last year. It’s white porcelain and was obviously a plate or saucer as you can see the rim on the back of it. A pale blue flower is painted on giving the impression it was once part of a ‘good’ china set. But how did it end up here at the back of the garden?
I’ve thought a lot about the families who lived here – we have a list of all the previous owners dating back to 1883 – but I’ve never found any evidence of their existence. Until now. How did this piece of china end up at the back of our garden? Who used to eat off it and how did it get broken? Perhaps it was thrown in frustration after an argument?! Or perhaps it was innocently dropped by a child who was too scared to tell their mother. Maybe they had been playing tea parties with the wedding china and buried the broken bits hoping no one would ever notice the missing plate?
Just think of all the stories our china has to tell. The everyday sets that see the rushed breakfasts eaten standing up while toast is made; the children being told for the third time to get their shoes on and schoolbags packed; the hurried kisses goodbye over steaming coffee cups and sections of newspaper.
Imagine later on friends pop over for cake. It’s served on a cake stand that has seen many mornings of intimate chats about husbands, children, career worries. But also celebrations: birthdays, promotions, anniversaries. It has held countless cakes – the triumphs and the disasters – and will hold countless more.
Perhaps tonight the good china comes out. Six friends over for dinner and it’s also time to pull out the silver cutlery; cutlery that was tirelessly collected and carried while travelling the world as a 25- year-old. Do those plates recall the overcooked roast beef disaster? Or the heated argument about politics that occurred across the table at another dinner party five years ago? More likely they recall the dinner party where two best friends met and fell in love. Or one a few of years later when another couple finally announced they were pregnant after a miscarriage.
What if our crockery tells more stories about our lives than our photo albums do? A few years ago, terrible bushfires ripped through Victoria, a state of Australia. Many people died while fleeing their homes in cars packed with their most sentimental possessions.
An elderly lady was one of those people. She was found in her car the next day with nothing else but her complete set of wedding china. Who can guess the memories that china must have held.
The only consolation is imagining those plates now, in another kitchen, bringing as much joy.
Some Home Truths
• Also see Germaine’s kitchen tour here
(Image: Germaine Leece of Some Home Truths)