I was a 21-year-old about-to-be-newlywed when the Southern ladies in my life — i.e. Beau’s grandmother, mother, and aunts — informed me that any proper bride-to-be just had to register for a china pattern.
China? Pattern? I could barely make my way through the kitchen! I could hardly grasp their lingo! First off I had to discern that china has nothing to do with the People’s Republic of China. Then I readily accepted that “china” was probably just a fancy way to say “the dishes Mom gets out for Thanksgiving dinner.” Apparently, as my soon-to-be in-laws explained, Beau and I would not have a true home unless we acquired dishes to be used only on special occasions, definitely not to be used for 9 p.m. ice cream extravaganzas or for feeding the cowboys after brandings. And the pattern part of the equation? Well, that just meant that my beloved and I needed to pick out the prettiest plates that we liked best of all. Then, if we let all our wedding guests know where to buy said plates, we’d be sufficiently set for life together. And that’s how you get married in the Deep South, folks.
So my patient, loving, Alabama-born beau swept me off to the nearest Dillard’s — a store I’d never been in before and surely don’t frequent now. And we perused aisle after aisle of fine, delicate plates and saucers and cups and sugar bowls. I realized that my mom’s kitchen didn’t have any china per say — her fancy dishes are a mix of heirlooms handed down from previous generations and a couple of sturdy, bright-colored sets from Target which she treated herself to a few years back.
But the china at Dillard’s — it was a whole other animal! There was nothing bright or sturdy going on in those aisles. There were plates so thin you could almost see through them! Cups alive with hand-painted birds! Delicate flowers! Juicy green pears! There were gold-rimmed dishes. Silver-rimmed dishes. Holiday-themed settings. My head was spinning, and a strong distaste for hummingbirds and roses was growing in the back of my throat.
Overwhelmed by the choices, Beau and I finally chose a simple white plate with a silver rim. And we got the heck out of Dillard’s. Many people gifted us a single place setting of that china for our wedding, and even before the big day we had collected a table full of “our” china. Then we bounced it all, packed in foam peanuts, over gravel roads to the cow camp where we shared two honeymoon years.
And since then, we have moved that china many times. And used it maybe three times.
Back in 2003, the year we wed, I was disgusted with myself for not having refined-enough tastes to be able to choose an exquisite china pattern which I loved and with which I wanted to share my life.
But now I see that I was a very young bride! And in the years since, as I’ve grown up, I have indeed discovered a couple china patterns that really appeal to me. Now I know, and if I had it all to do over again, I might choose a pattern in the blue willow family:
Or maybe something in brown:
I’ve had a few chances to study china patterns in the last years because no visit “down home” to Alabama is complete without tagging behind my mother-in-law on a trip through Belk, the quintessential department store of the Deep South. On such trips, she delicately traced the lines of the Lenox Winter Greetings pattern so consistently that Beau and I finally decided to gift to her a place setting each Christmas of the same:
I think we’re up to five place settings for her so far. Amazon packs them and delivers them right to her front door. He he he he. That’s one Christmas dilemma solved.
So I, a Montana ranch girl through and through, am becoming more and more acquainted with china all the time. A natural-born Southern belle I will never be. But you could never say I haven’t tried my hand at at least a few of the pursuits Southern ladies fancy.
The trouble is, for all my daydreaming about china… Beau and I have never even really had a matched set of everyday dishes in any kitchen we’ve ever lived in. When we got married, we were so distracted with the china decision that we neglected to register for a set of daily dishes — for microwaving hot chocolate in, eating spaghetti off of, and piling the ice cream high. So for the last 13 years we’ve been eating off of and serving the cowboys who frequent our table with an eclectic, hand-me-down mishmash of dishes we’ve picked up here and there. Right now our plates are a strange collection of rusted tin, most of which we salvaged out of the old chuck box here at the PV; odd-sized Dollar Store finds; and kid-size compartmentalized vessels printed with cows jumping over moons.
Lately I’ve been thinking about growing up and making an uncharacteristically organized decision and obtaining an entire collection of dinnerware, all of one style, for our kitchen. I’m talking big plates, little plates, bowls, mugs… the whole shebang. Trouble is, as most things do, the decision represents a quandary for me. Which dishes do I really love, enough to look at every day? And what does love even mean?
I’ll admit it, I’ve been looking to my blogging (s)hero, Pioneer Woman, for answers. If you’ve been to Wal-Mart in the last two years, you know that Pioneer Woman has been churning out dinnerware designs for every season. You can bet I’ve been keeping an eagle eye on the whole proceedings. I have really wanted to like her dishes, I really have. But until recently, they all seemed a little heavy on the polka dots and a little too crazy with the colors.
Ahem. Until… she came out with her new Spring Line a couple weeks ago. And announced its arrival via her blog. I clicked on the link, and therein I discovered…
The Plates I Want and Need and Love and Desire to Share My Everyday Life With.
The pattern is called Rose Shadow, and here’s what it looks like:
These are them, folks. Married almost 14 years and I’ve finally decided on what we really need for our wedding. Some things you’re just too young to know when you’re 21. Let’s just be happy that I’m still sure I’ll keep my same groom. That’s what’s most important, right?
P.S.: On her blog, Pioneer Woman has regular giveaways of her products. Readers just post a comment at the bottom of the blog and they’re automatically entered in a drawing to win whatever’s featured in said blog. (I am so totally going to do the same thing some day when my blog is famous and I have my own product line. *wink*)
(By the way… I have a love-hate relationship with Pioneer Woman. I mean, the gal has a new cookbook coming out; I already have the first four. And a new children’s book coming out; I find her children’s books so far to be meh. And the spring dinnerware line coming out; I can’t help it — I want one of everything! And she’s busy filming episodes for her cooking show; I can’t help it — I want to see every new episode! And… and… that woman is such an overachiever! Ugh! Making the rest of us feel like losers!)
Anyhoo… there are usually about 30,000 entrants in a PW giveaway on her blog, and she does probably one a week. I personally enter every giveaway. But I haven’t won anything yet. Do you think I will ever win? Or do you think… do you think… I will have to break down and buy my own darn plates? Comment below and you’ll be entered to win your very own signed copy of the Blake family 2016-17 Christmas-turned-Valentine’s card.
© Tami Blake