Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Tale of Two (Or More) Dishes

When I was young, my family ate off of Blue Willow dishes. My grandmother gave my parents the set not long after they were married in 1948.

They weren't fine china, but they were good, sturdy dishes made to serve folks their daily bread.

Over the years, some pieces were cracked, 

some chips appeared,

and a few plates and cups were broken, but for the most part, they survived very well.

Somewhere along the line, we switched to these wheat dishes. I think they came in laundry detergent, but I'm not sure about that.

Finally, Mom went with Correlle, white with a gold border design.

But what I remember most are the Blue Willow. Maybe I liked them so much because I can remember seeing them used on TV, in westerns like Bonanza and my favorite show, Daniel Boone. A history buff from the beginning, I played pioneer and dreamed of living in a log cabin and wearing long dresses. The log cabin and long dresses were hard to come by in the 1960s, but the Blue Willow dishes greeted me at every meal. When I got my first apartment after graduating from college and landing a job, Mom helped me round up second-hand furniture, bedding, and kitchen wares. And she gave me the Blue Willow dishes, much to my delight. When Robin and I got married three years later, I added some newer pieces, made by Churchill, to complete a service for six. We've been using them for thirty years now.

In 2010 we remodeled our kitchen. We went from natural oak cabinets and a beige counter top...

 to plantation white cabinets and a dark green counter top.

 The new kitchen is lovely and I like it a lot, but it does not go with the Blue Willow dishes! The colors simply aren't a good fit.

Consequently, I've spent the last five years looking for new dishes. All the patterns I considered were either way too modern for my taste, way too fancy for everyday use, or way too expensive for my wallet. I like Fiesta Ware, and even borrowed a few plates and bowls from my sister to try it out. Although I liked the small bowls, the dinner plates were awfully heavy, meaning the serving bowls and platters would be heavier still, especially when full of food. So, I purchased a few little bowls, and I do enjoy these bright, happy colors in my kitchen. But Fiesta Ware was not the right fit.

Next, I tried dishes by Pioneer Woman, of Food Network fame. Ree Drummond is her real name, and she launched her own line of kitchen everything last fall. I thought her dishes were the answer to my dilemma, but alas, they didn't work either. The color was OK, but not great.

The plates and bowls are deep, which is good for eating, but not so good for stacking.

I wasn't particularly pleased with the quality, either. One plate has already chipped, and another is scratched (and we don't even have a dishwasher!). In the end, the price was great, but the dishes weren't.

I was beginning to think I'd never find the right dishes. As sometimes happens though, when I least expected to, I found them! Well, three pieces, anyway. The local SPCA chapter runs a second-hand store to raise funds and I like to stop in from time to time to see what treasures might be had. Last week when I walked in, there they were: the dishes I'd been looking for. There was a dinner plate, a square salad plate, and a fruit bowl, displayed on a wooden dish drainer and just waiting for me to arrive.

 The pattern is Strawberry Fair, by Johnson Brothers.

The white is not bright white; I'd call it plantation white because it matches my cabinets. The red is that antique shade that looks both ordinary enough for every day and elegant enough to be special.

I thought it would be easy enough to find and purchase a new set of these lovely dishes. Wrong. The website LoveToKnow says this:

Johnson Brothers also manufactured a pattern called Strawberry Fair. It is a red transferware pattern with the bulk of the motif arranged in a wide band around the edge. The rim on the plates is scalloped.Many of the bowls and cups have a small, matching motif inside. The bowl rims are decorated with a rope design, strawberries and daisies. This is one of the more unique of the strawberry china patterns. It was manufactured from 1959 to 1973.

Leave it to me to fall in love with a discontinued and apparently very collectible pattern! A little poking around on eBay and Etsy revealed that these dishes aren't plentiful, nor are they cheap. But now that I've used the three pieces for a few days, I don't think anything else will do.

I found eight dinner plates in this Etsy shop and decided to go for it and order them. They arrived in two boxes and oh my, the packing!! This photo was taken after I got the plates unpacked, which was quite a job and took me well over half an hour.

After I got the bundles out of the Styrofoam packing peanuts, there was cardboard and bubble wrap to deal with.

Each plate was wrapped in not one,

not two,

but three layers of bubble wrap!

There was lots of tape involved as well.

When I finally finished, I had this beautiful stack of dinner plates,

and this big stack of bubble wrap! (I added the pill box to give you a point of reference.)

Because one of the dinner plates had a tiny chip, the Etsy shop owner threw in a bread and butter plate as a bonus. How nice!

So, I'm good for dinner plates, and I have one each of the bread and butter, square salad, and fruit bowl. I guess I'll be haunting antique shops and searching eBay, and Etsy for good deals on the many other pieces I need.  It will take a while, but I'll appreciate them all the more for the wait. It's just like that old saying: "Good things come to those who wait."  And how sweet it is when the good things finally show up.