Baby Showers, Fancy Dishes, & Being at Home

Two of my good friends recently threw a baby shower for another mutual acquaintance. It was going to be an open house sort of shower in a church reception hall, but my friends wanted it to feel more personal than, say, a church potluck.

As a result, they decided to use–gasp!–real dishes.

Now, a lot of people find using real dishes to be downright inconvenient. It requires that dishes be washed, for one thing, and with a come-and-go shower, those dishes might need to be washed multiple times. In this case, my friends wanted to use small plates for food, as well as teacups and saucers for coffee.

Because we insist on using real dishes for our community potlucks–and even ask that people wash their own after the meal is over–I thought this was a great idea for the shower. Granted, I wasn’t attending the shower nor was I responsible for the clean-up. But still, who doesn’t love eating off a solid plate?

The shower colors were pink and green, and some of you might remember that I indeed own a set of green dishes, passed down from Jonathan’s grandmother. (I’ve blogged about these dishes before.) Our friends already had a set of pink dishes for the occasion, and the night before the shower, they came over to load up on the small plates, teacups, and saucers of Grandma’s green set.

When they stopped by last night to return them after the big event, we asked how the shower had gone.

It was a success, we were told: good attendance, gifts from the registry, no major calamities.

And the china was the biggest hit of all.

Especially among the older women of the church–the matriarchs, you could say–real dishes were meaningful enough to comment on.

So I’ve been thinking about why this might be the case. Why does nobody like styrofoam, paper plates, solo cups, or plastic forks and spoons? (If you do, feel free to correct me.) And if nobody likes them, why do we keep using them? Why do we have an inherent preference for real, solid dishes?

I think people don’t like them for practical reasons (like that they’re annoying–who can cut onto a paper plate without slicing it up?), for aesthetic reasons (like that they’re ugly), and for more subconscious reasons (like that they represent impermanence).

It’s this latter reason that trumps all.

We like real dishes because by using them, we feel more like we matter.

Is that cheesy? Maybe so, but I think it’s true. Real dishes do take more work, and they can break, and they are heavy to lug to a church if you’re hosting a baby shower.

But they represent stability and membership in a community.

Maybe you grew up eating off paper plates at your house, but I sure didn’t. And that makes a difference.

So, to me, real dishes mean I’m at home.

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6 comments on “Baby Showers, Fancy Dishes, & Being at Home

  1. stephen says:

    We recently bought more dishes at a thrift store because we didn’t like having to use “fake” dishes for larger gathering. No, our dishes don’t match, but that’s part of the fun….. Real dishes are a pain in the butt some times… like when you have to wash them so oftern, but you are very right.

    • elizabeth says:

      I think mix-and-match dishes are the best. 🙂 If we hadn’t been given such a big hand-me-down set, we’d do the same thing.

      PS Make those guests wash their own dishes!

  2. craigcrowder says:

    I’m Craig Crowder, and I like this blog post. 🙂

  3. Mary Lou White says:

    I have fond memories of potlucks in my parents’ church – eating off real dishes. One of the pleasures was actually the cleanup as groups gathered in the kitchen to wash the dishes together (no big electric dishwashers in those days) – that last act of fellowship was a part of the event. It is like eating at your house on Sundays, Elizabeth, as conversation would continue over the dishwater.
    Another favorite memory is washing dishes with my sister. All the extended family dinners seemed to take place at our home, mom’s brothers and sisters and their kids, grandparents, etc. My sister and I always had to do the dishes…but we made it fun, and usually ended with a water fight (someone getting smacked with a wet sponge on the head) and mom hollering at us to “BEHAVE!” Wouldn’t trade it for anything!

    • elizabeth says:

      I really like that you call washing dishes “that last act of fellowship.” So true!

      Growing up, we mostly had a dishwasher, but my brother and I still fought over who had to wash the pans and then clean out the sink afterward. Yuck. There was a system in place that kept track of who had to do what (wiping up the counters vs. cleaning the pans), and I think if you cooked, you got out of it completely. It was something like that at least. Ah, the things we do in order to be “fair.”

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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