Pretty Plates

How would you feel if you went to a really nice restaurant for an expensive meal and they served your food on hideous dishes, or worse yet, paper plates? When we eat out at really nice places, we have a certain expectation; we expect to be treated in a manner that makes us feel special, right down to attractive dishes and a candle or a flower or some type of extra touch. We’re spending big money on the meal, we deserve it, so we expect it to be served in such a manner.

What do you serve food on at home? Let me ask this? Are you any more special or deserving at that really nice restaurant than you are at home? You shouldn’t be, you’re still you. Why shouldn’t every meal be a little more special? 

A few years ago, upon reading a lot about diet, health, nutrition and eating habits, one theme was consistent across many authors, many methods and many philosophies; meals should be special. We should approach meals in a manner where we can enjoy them, where we can savor them and recognize the flavors, the textures, appreciate the nutrition, the fulfillment and the enjoyment they offer us. As a society, our rushed meals, our “unthinking” meals in front of television, or while reading, assuming we even eat a meal not in a fast food bag, are killing us. Literally. Slow down. 

Every meal should be an occasion, in my opinion. I have worked hard to afford the food. I have spent some time preparing the food. I will have to spend some more time cleaning up after my meal. Why, then, do I want to rush through the meal? Why do I want to scarf down my food without giving it any thought?

Studies have shown that if you eat while doing other things, like watching television or reading, that you consume a considerable amount more than if you just focused on eating. This explains a lot about our trends in obesity. I know very few people that ever eat without the television on. We should set aside time for meals where we do nothing but eat and enjoy the food, and each other (good relationship advice, too).

When I have the pleasure to eat at home, whether alone or in companionship, I take a few extra moments to set my table nicely. I use china more often than not. Linen napkins, sometimes a tablecloth. Candles or flowers. Nice glasses. The works. It takes me little extra time doing dishes, it takes me little extra time in preparation, an indiscernible amount, if you ask me. By making the effort to set a nice table, I find that I slow down and enjoy my food a little more. It makes life a bit more enjoyable, as well. It gives me an opportunity to pause, reflect, and enjoy. When is the last time you felt that way about a meal in a sack you grabbed at the drive-thru? 

Many authors recommend you chew your food slowly, setting the fork down between bites, and in so doing, your body signals that it’s satisfied before you take the next bite, not before your third helping. By making an event out of meal time, I find this is much easier to do. I’m healthier for it, too. I eat far less than I used to, and it shows. Besides, I deserve it. Don’t you? 

My mom has a lovely set of pretty plates and sterling silverware, too. In my entire life, I have only seen it grace the table twice. Many, many, many “special” occasions have come and gone and that lovely china has remained ensconced in its protective cases, on a high shelf in the far reaches of a cupboard. I’m not sure what occasion would warrant use of these pretty plates, in her mind, with so many having gone past. Would she set the table with the pretty plates for a meal with my dad last year if she’d known he wouldn’t be here this year? Would she have set the table with the pretty plates for a meal with her best friend had she known she wouldn’t be able to join her for another meal again? Now she suggests getting rid of the china, she has no one left to entertain. Tragic. She still has me, her grandchildren. Are we not worthy of the pretty plates? I think so. I’d set the table with them if she were coming to visit me! 

I use my pretty plates every single day. They are ages old and I have no idea of their value. They could be worthless, they could be priceless. I have my grandmother’s china and it has to be close to a century old. I use them every day. Why not? Why have them if they’re just shoved in a corner of a closet in a box? So what if a piece is broken every now and then? Nothing guarantees they won’t become broken in the box in the closet. Why should they be left for some future civilization to unearth and study? What will they find out about us from studying our bits of unused china and other artifacts? That we never used it and we ate deplorably and were, as a society, grossly obese? 

When guests join me for a meal, they remark that I have set the table with my antique pretty plates. It makes them feel special, appreciated, that I have gone to that trouble for a shared meal. If we have a shred of self esteem, should we not do something every day to make ourselves feel special and appreciated? I think so.

I met a couple once, they were madly in love with each other, and with life. I loved their joie de vie! I respect that in people. When I visited them for dinner, of course their best dishes were on the table, set upon linens with fresh flowers and candles. I felt like a valued friend. As dinner was cooking, they served wonderful, chilled sparkling wine in crystal champagne flutes. A real treat. I love sparkling wine and champagne! Though, until then, I drank it rarely, only on very special occasions and holidays. I remarked on the sparkling wine. They told me they drank sparkling wine every single day, that every day was worthy of a celebration. Alright, then. I agree. I don’t drink sparkling wine every day, but I do drink it several times a week. I’ll order a glass before my meal at a restaurant, even when dining alone. I always have a bottle or two chilled in my refrigerator to enjoy any time I please. Life is worth celebrating, and life happens every day, even on the most ordinary of days, you’re living, are you not, life occurs, why not celebrate?


So, as evening nears, I will go downstairs, pull a pretty plate from my cupboard and place it upon my table. I’ll surround it with my best flatware and place a champagne flute  above the spoon. I’ll prepare a simple, nutritious meal and serve myself from a lovely serving dish with an ornate serving spoon. The sparkling wine will be poured and I will make a toast for the celebration. Life. It is Thursday, after all, the only one this week.



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