What I have in Common with Donna Tartt: Views On Fine China

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The Secret History blew me away when I first read it over 20 years ago. The Little Friend hit close to home given my own 1970s small town Southern childhood (only without a murder and a few less snake handlers.) But Donna Tartt spoke to my soul when she wrote this passage in The Goldfinch:

“…the consultant kept showing us more and more settings, clearly hoping to wheedle some firmer show of preference from me, gently explaining to me the fine points of each, the vermeil here, the hand-painted borders there, until I had been forced to bite my tongue to keep from saying what I really thought: that despite the craftsmanship it made absolutely zero difference whether Kitsey chose the x pattern or the y pattern since as far as I was concerned it was basically all the same: new charmless, dead-in-hand, not to mention the expense: eight hundred dollars for a made yesterday plate? One plate? There were beautiful eighteenth-century sets to be had for a fraction of the price of this cold, bright, newly minted stuff.”

Old china! Beautiful, over the top, hand-painted plates with vibrant colors and too many roses and birds that tells a story. China that was carefully crafted to be used on a daily basis.

I wilt inside every time a friend describes their grandmother’s fabulous Staffordshire, Limoges or even Castleton set but confesses that it sits unused and gathering dust in their china cabinets because they don’t want to hand wash anymore. Or that it’s packed up in the garage “somewhere” waiting on the children to get homes of their own.

This isn’t the 1980s anymore. Even my mid-range Kenmore dishwasher has a special china setting. China isn’t that delicate anyway. My 1910 Haviland Limoges set lives in the dishwasher. And lives well.

So pull out the good old stuff…even your own wedding china. Or go to an estate sale this weekend and buy something fun. Use it, feel special then load it in the dishwasher. If it breaks or chips…so what? It always makes me laugh when I hear a dinner guest say “You didn’t need to use your good china just for us.” Yes, I do. And I especially use it for me.

“Plain, white modern earthenware wasn’t something I could work up a lot of enthusiasm for, particularly when it went for four hundred dollars a plate.”

Exactly. Now it’s cocktail time with some pimento cheese on Haviland and Coalport.

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