If you are a dish in my house, you will have a hard life. Between four kids and a clumsy mom, you will get slammed around, cracked, chipped and ultimately meet your demise on the hardwood floor. It’s just how it is.
We can’t afford a new dish set every time a bowl breaks. But when our tableware dwindled to five bowls and a handful of dinner plates, it became tricky for this family of six to consume our usual quota of cereal and soup – let alone eat a decent supper on real plates. So I knew it was time to start shopping.
The problem is, whether I buy cheap dishes at Target or expensive porcelain wares at Pier One (promised by the effusive saleslady to withstand or constant assault) the result is the same – broken dishes and a frustrated me.
After a recent tour at a living history museum, I became intrigued by the thought of enamelware dishes. Ma Ingalls is a personal hero of mine. And anything I can do to emulate her wisdom and practicality is a win in my book. So after listening to the tour guide sing the praises of metal dishes in pioneer homes, I wondered why we strayed from them as a society. After all, if they worked for Ma Ingalls, surely they would work for me.
Enamelware dishes are sensible. Sturdy. Kid-proof. Ungainly mom-proof. And even if they do take a beating, chips in enamelware just add to the charm. I decided they’d make the perfect tableware for my family.
Obviously Ma Ingalls didn’t have Google or Amazon Prime. I have both. So I got busy looking for enamelware dishes online. I did find a beautiful set on Amazon but was warned in the reviews that they were made in China. No good.
I researched online shops, read blogs, scoured Pinterest, read reviews and ultimately settled on a brand from England. The website noted the company had proudly produced this “icon of British home life” since the 1920’s. They used terms like timeless elegance and enduring strength, which had me nodding in agreement as I read.
These were not a cheap option by any means. But Americans have always had a fascination with European imports, and I am no exception. I was certain that British dishes would be beautiful, high quality and worth every penny. I convinced my husband to shell out the money and hit send on my order before he changed his mind.
I watched for that package to arrive on my doorstep like a kid waiting for Santa. When you’re 40 years old there are few things in life more exciting than new dishes. And I’ll confess, I got a little thrill knowing my new dinnerware was crossing the ocean all the way from England.
My heart leaped the day I came home to the box on my doorstep. My friend and I happily tore apart the packages, spread the dishes on my counter and stood back to admire them.
The color was perfect. The dishes were sturdier than I imagined. I fancied myself the envy of Ma Ingalls and all my friends with these European beauties.
I envisioned the deep plates holding stew and cozy soups for days. I pictured charming chips forming in the enamel over time from lots of loving use. I dreamed of idyllic family meals and lively dinner parties with friends passing the plates round the table. In my mind, these dishes were sure to become treasured family heirlooms my children fight over upon my death.
I am nothing if not dramatic.
I threw everything through a dishwasher cycle then lovingly stacked and restacked them on my shelf until the arrangement was ready for an Instagram debut.
I was piling all of the individual boxes back into the shipping box when my eyes fell upon three little words that changed everything:
Made in China.
CHINA??? I blinked in disbelief. I angrily tore through each box, checking and rechecking. Surely this couldn’t be right. These were made in England. Not CHINA!
Except they weren’t.
The value of the dishes plummeted in my eyes. And honestly, I was furious that I’d spent a fortune on dishes that were made in China. I could’ve just ordered the ones from Amazon with free shipping and free returns. Heck, I probably could have bought better dishes in the camping section at WalMart.
I bit my lower lip, wondering how to tell my husband about my blunder. But as I stood there thinking, I couldn’t help but start giggling. At myself.
I had to admit to myself how quickly I was willing to shell out serious cash for the mere perception of luxury and extravagance. And I was just as quick to dismiss the dishes as worthless simply because they were no longer the hotsy totsy British dishes I thought I’d purchased.
My dishes are just as beautiful and functional as I thought they were the moment I pulled them out of the box. I can still use them to bless my family and friends with warm meals and quality time spent together. And on the bright side, they will likely develop those charming chips a lot faster than I thought they would.
The only thing that changed is my perception of their value.
I am not alone in my tendency to inflate the value of items based on hype rather than substance. And my dishes are just one of many things in the world we think are extravagant and special but at the end of the day are just things.
I am grateful that my tableware will serve as a reminder not to store up treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy (and odds are the treasure was made in China anyway) but to store up treasure in Heaven.
I plan to use my overpriced enamelware to serve my family and guests for years to come. Or at least until they rust out. Which, incidentally, started happening after just one wash.
I’ll just have to pray no one gets metal poisoning.