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HUCKABY: Dishing on dishes

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Dishes are on my mind today. Yeah, I know. A little strange, huh?

There is a logical explanation. I was unloading our dishwasher for about the third time this week — and only two of us reside here and we’d only been home a day—and it put me to thinking. I wondered, to myself, how many meals I had eaten off these very same dishes over the past 31 years — which is how long my lovely wife Lisa has put up with me, and my shenanigans.

Actually, I often tease Lisa about how lucky she is to have made a catch like me, and I ask her the question my hero, Colonel Wheeler Davidson, has been known to ask his wife, Ginny. “In your wildest dreams did you ever think you’d be married to a Southern gentleman of such means as to hold season tickets for University of Georgia football games?”

Lisa always tells me the same thing Ginny tells Wheeler. She says, “Darrell, you were never in my WILDEST dreams.”

But we were talking about dishes. I remember the months leading up to our wedding and Lisa was obsessed with picking out just the right set of “everyday” dishes, as well as fine china, flatware and silver. I think “stemware” and crystal were in the mix, too.

I bet y’all didn’t think I knew the word “stemware,” did you?

The china she chose was Diana, which was part of the Romance Collection, by Royal Doulton. Of course I didn’t know that off the top of my head. I peeked in the china cabinet where our fancy dishes, all sixteen place settings, have been stored since 1982. I think we have used them five times.

It says one the back of the dishes that they were made in 1981, which was the year that Lady Diana and prince Charles got hitched, which is probably why Royal Doulton came out with those particular dishes.

The everyday knives and forks and spoons are by Oneida. I don’t know what the pattern is, but I remember Lisa picked it out because it looked a lot like our silver. They both have little roses scattered about.

The china looks fine on display and the silver, which is safely hidden in an undisclosed location, probably needs polishing. That’s just my guess, as I haven’t seen it in decades. The everyday stuff, though? Lisa hit a homerun with our everyday dishes. I remember that she was looking for something “classic and neutral” so it wouldn’t go out of style. I guess that’s what we have because we have consumed about a billion calories apiece off those plates and have entertained hundreds of people a year for 31 years—and they still look almost as good as they did when we opened all those wedding gifts back in 1982. They are Noritake stoneware—the Fanfare pattern — and are a bone color with a brownish tent around the outside and two brown rings on the very outside edge. The set came with bowls and small plates and wonderfully heavy coffee mugs and I have eaten steak and potatoes and fish and shrimp and meatloaf and all manner of casseroles and vegetables off those dishes—and look forward to having a million more meals before I am done.

But the thing that got me thinking, as I was unloading the dishwasher, was the contrast between what we have eaten off of since we set up housekeeping and what my mama had.

Mama had a set of china and a set of silver, too. I can’t ever remember her having set the table with it but once, and that was when she gave a bridesmaid brunch for my cousin Carolyn. The rest of the time it was stored safely away, under the bed she shared with my daddy.

Her everyday dished weren’t so nice. We usually ate off Melmac, which she had bought a piece at a time at the grocery store. When a different store offered a different pattern Mama would go to that store and we usually had a mishmash of plates and cups on the table. Our flatware wasn’t very sturdy and most of the knives and forks didn’t match.

The glasses from which we drank our sweet tea had once contained store-bought jelly. Once I was old enough to drive we acquired a set of juice glasses. They had football players on them and came from The Varsity. Don’t judge. I bet you had them, too.

None of that mattered, of course, because my mama was a wonderful cook and the food we consumed off that Melmac was just as tasty as that which I know eat from my Noritake stoneware. Like I’ve said many times, we weren’t poor in Porterdale. We just didn’t have any money.

That being said, I am a bit tired of loading and unloading the dishwasher all the time — but Lisa swears it comes with the territory since I have retired.

Hmmmm. If y’all promise not to tell the green people, I may just switch dishes after all these years. I may start eating my thousand calories a day off of the newest Solo pattern. They make more than red cups, you know.

Darrell Huckaby is an author in Rockdale County. Email him at darrellhuckaby.net.