Slow Boat to China

A great episode of the Twilight Zone is Time Enough at Last with Burgess Meredith. Meredith plays a man who loves to read, but is annoyingly interrupted by those around him. He survives a nuclear war while reading in a bank vault, and then discovers a post-apocalyptic world with no people and all the time to read for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, he drops his glasses and is left with time and books, but cannot see them. I have a similar irony, albeit less dramatic.

I love dishes and drinking glasses. I have too many of these. But, I live in a region where earthquakes cause breakage. I’m also concerned that my guests will break a glass or dish. So I keep the collections in a cabinet, and use the Melmac plastic dinnerware. I typically say, “I know you won’t mind using plastic, but we’re all family and can be casual.” Of course I say this to everyone regardless of my relationship and carefully watch the dish cabinet. I realize this is selfish and stupid. Is my goal to maintain a complete set of Russell Wright Iroquois Casual dinnerware intact until I die?

One of my absolute favorite sets is Salem China Company’s Pat Prichard Nostalgic Old America from 1956. Viktor Schreckengost designed the forms, and Pat Prichard created the art. Old Gloucester is a fantastic collection of New England forms such as clipper ships, rooster weathervanes, baked beans, and a seaside village. I guess baked beans are big in New England. Old Comstock depicts a western scene with happy horses, old west saloons, and a stagecoach. Clearly, this is New England nostalgia from another time. Unlike the HBO mini-series John Adams (yes related), there is no depiction of surgery with no anesthesia. And on Old Comstock, unlike Deadwood, there is no whoring or liberal use of the “C” word (and I don’t mean China).

On Being Downwardly Mobile

recent Melmac purchase, detail

At 4:30 a.m. on January 17, 1994, the Northridge earthquake shook the Los Angeles basin. My house ended up with a couple of broken windows, but no structural damage. My dinnerware did not survive. All of the Russell Wright Iroquois Casual plates were rocketed from the cabinets and slammed into the opposing kitchen wall, leaving dents where they hit. That morning, I decided to embrace plastics. Mr. McGuire says to Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, "I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics." He was right. Now there are good plastic dishes and bad plastic dishes. I found a remarkable set of avocado colored bowls in Tokyo, and another set of baby blue bowls in Paris. A good resource is, unsurprisingly, ebay under Melmac. Don't buy anything used, it's gross. Other people may have licked the plates or cut into them. I only buy the "in the original box, unopened" dinnerware. Much of it was purchased in the 1950s and 1960s and then left in a box in the back of a cabinet. This set is a recent find. I'm guessing 1969, 1970. I love the turquoise and green color palette, and the vaguely Mexican motif. It's rather psychedelic and hints at macrame and rust colored sofas. I know that chefs want food presented on beautiful plain surfaces, and that this is wrong, wrong, wrong. But my typical meals of turkey burgers, chili, grilled chicken and steamed vegetables look fine to me.

a tiny bowl, cup and saucer, and plate, melmac