Imagine it with Meatloaf
How many place settings we received as wedding gifts, I cannot recall. Ten. Twelve, maybe. It has been a long time since our wedding. Sixteen years this Friday. We are down to just two of our original dinner plates.
I received a great deal of unsolicited advice as a young bride-to-be. Some of it was about the actual institution of marriage, “It takes work,” that sort of thing. Mostly, though, it was about avoiding unflattering wedding-day tan lines or selecting the right dishes.
“Get something Japanese.” That was my mother’s advice upon hearing that I favored a Wedgwood pattern (read: English, expensive) for my fine china. “You don’t know twelve people who will spend a hundred and forty dollars to get you a dinner plate. Trust me.”
Many women encouraged me to register for a pattern that would coordinate with my mother and father’s wedding china. (The idea, I suppose, was that mom and dad would die in a few decades. When that day came, I could soothe the grief of loosing the only two people in the world who loved me more that I love myself with the satisfaction of knowing I had doubled the number guests I could accommodate for a formal dinner.) The best advice I was given about dishes, however, came from my neighbor, Sherry.
“Imagine what the plate will look like once there is meatloaf on it,” she said.
“Gross,” I said.
And she said, “Yeah, exactly. Or spaghetti. Something messy. A dish that has a bold design on it, pink flowers around the rim, something like that, maybe it’ll look pretty in the china cabinet, but try to imagine how those flowers are going to look next to the meatloaf. God-awful.”
Sherry recommended that I get something on the plain side. Something solid, but becoming in an understated way. Something with a pleasing weight or texture. Maybe I will be the only person who will take the time to notice the dish’s finer points, and that will be fine. What is important is that it will stand up to the ugliness of day-to-day food, of fish sticks and boxed mac-and-cheese, without becoming repulsive.
One of the more popular china patterns in the 90s, the decade in which I married, was Botanic Garden by Portmeirion. Every plate in the collection had a different design on it. One plate featured an orchid, another a tiger lily. There’d even be honey bees and hummingbirds on some of the pieces in the collection. Butterflies. Vines. I kind of liked them fifteen, twenty years ago. Got to see them at quite a few bridal showers (because some of my friends did know “twelve people that [would] spend a hundred and forty dollars to get [them] a dinner plate.”
I couldn’t find a picture of these dishes that included meatloaf. Moreover, I couldn’t find a picture in which food of any kind was on these dishes with the exception of the above shot with the limes. It is beautiful, but lets be honest: how often do you and your family sit down at the table for a nice bowl of limes?
If you know a young bride, feel free to pass along Sherry’s advice. It works not only on selecting dishes, but also on choosing the person with whom you’ll share the meal. Find a man who is solid. Someone who is becoming, if in an understated way when compared to others whose characteristics initially seem more bold and attention-grabbing (garish?). Consider how a guy is going to look, how he is going to behave, next to meatloaf. Not literal meatloaf (though there is something to be said for a person who eats what he is served), but figurative meatloaf. The life-experience equivalent of it. All the unwanted, brown, greasy, ketchup-covered events that come with advancing years. Chores that never get done. Expenses that continue to mount. Illnesses. Layoffs. Will he become God-awful when served with such inevitable realities?
While I own up to my share of regrets, and while I freely admit there are certainly things I’d do differently if given a second chance, I can honestly say that I am happy with both my dishes and the man with whom I share my meals. Sitting down for supper, for sixteen years (and counting), has been the most contented part of my day. It really doesn’t matter what we are having.