We’re all snobs about something. Admit it. There are definitely things, foods, directors, restaurants, places– that we love and consider of the highest order and wouldn’t settle for less. I have high, unwavering standards about a lot of things, and I know I should be more flexible. One of them is china. I am a china snob.

In 1989, when my cousin Karen and I went to tea at the Plaza to see what Ivana Trump had done after she renovated the Palm Court, we were pleased to see the room still held its palm trees. the-plaza-palm-court_650

But when we were served, I picked up my cup and saucer and said in honest astonishment sprinkled with indignation, what has now become a family joke, “This is crockery!” How could the Plaza Palm Court have SWITCHED from bone china to crockery? I still can’t get over it, and I haven’t been back. In today’s New York Times there is an article about Trump’s ownership of the Plaza that mentions Ivana’s redecorating and quotes employee Barbara Res as saying, “Some of it came out great; some of it came out kind of chintzy.”

I have 3 sets of “special” china with settings of at least 12 of each: Aynsley’s Henley pattern, Portmeiron’s Twelve Days of Christmas pattern, and Royal Worcester’s Evesham. I use the Christmas china for Christmas of course, the Evesham for Thanksgiving and fall and winter parties and the pastel Henley for Passover, Easter and spring and summer parties, including my August birthday where I love serving the cake on them.

When I was a teenager I had several surgeries. After the first two my junior year in high school, one in November and one in December followed by the holidays in the hospital, my mother took me on a trip to St. Thomas and Puerto Rico. It had been a rough winter, and I begged her to take me somewhere warm and beautiful. After a few days in Puerto Rico, we landed in St. Thomas and I was smitten. It seemed like paradise to me. We went into a china shop and Mom told me that I could pick out some china and she would buy some starter pieces for the set I would have later on when I had my own hhenley1ome. At sixteen, following two frightening female surgeries, that offer was a loving lifeline to the future. Thank you, Mom. I chose Aynsley’s Henley pattern, with its pretty flourishes and flowers in pastel colors enhanced by gold trim. The pattern might be a wee bit rococo, but I count my youth as responsible for that. I still love its femininity, something I was holding on tight to when I chose it. I brought a teacup and saucer with me when I went away to college, a talisman.

The Evesham was on our wedding registry. During my single years I had collected some serving pieces that I loved, but I didn’t have any dishes. I received 15 sets and probably every other piece that they made. The fruit and the corn represent the harvest to me, and the glory of nature. Because we received most of it as wedding gifts, it also reminds me of the family and friends that gave us the pieces as they sent us on our way in our marriage, hoping for a family life that included many happy meals on them. I hope it is not too sentimental to say that their good wishes have come true. This set too has quiet gold trim. It looks lovely by candelight.Thanksgiving table 2014

I remember picking up the Twelve Days of Christmas set thinking that someday, maybe someday, I’d have a family and be able to use them. It has been my honor to put out the “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house” plate holding chocolate chip cookies for Santa with portmeirion-christmas-story-dinner-plate-fine-china-dinnerware-scenes-of-twas-the-night-before-xmasmy son on Christmas eve when he was little.

When I set the holiday table, I put the plates around the table in order, each plate telling part of the verse.

I treasure them all. But when it comes to everyday dishes, I have not been so lucky. Except for the set of Epoch’s Oak Manor, which I came upon as odd pieces apparently moments after they were put on a shelf in a Marshall’s in Arlington, Mass. back in the 80s. I remember calling my mother over to “watch” them while I went and got a shopping cart for them. I haveoak manor one salad plate left. Since that purchase, I have bought nameless every day dishes in white only, and have mixed sets as they have gotten broken and tossed, which happens a lot. Currently I have 3 from one set and 3 from another. In our family with a teenager who snacks on quesadillas with guacamole and sour cream after school, 6 dishes is not enough. Last night I spent two hours online looking at potential additional dishes on the websites of Amazon, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Pottery Barn, Bloomingdales, JC Penney’s, Neiman Marcus, Kohl’s, Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Walmart. Except for Amazon, I looked at every single set of dishes, fine and every day, that they offered. I only found one set that I liked, Wedgwood’s Nantucket Basket, and it is too expensive to be used for every day dishes in a family that is hard on dishes. Melamine? I have a set of 20 in all different colors, started by a set that a dear friend gave me, that I use for summer barbecues. I just can’t see going to the trouble to cook a meal from scratch and then serving it on a plastic plate in the dining room.

This is my current every day white. yellow tomato salad plateIt’s okay, but, well, it’s crockery. And it doesn’t speak to me. I’m still looking for that perfect set of everyday whites that will warm my heart the way that my “special china” has.