“Why don’t we ever use the good China?” a friend asked me recently.
It was true. We were both discussing the fact that we had received our mother’s loving plates as hand-me-downs, yet rarely used them. In truth, my meals have become more about speed and convenience. If I’m honest, I would confess that paper plates are my favorite, even for holidays. Getting out the good stuff means work.
Still, despite the fact that the special plates require something of us, they remain meaningful. Both my friend and I agreed some of our sweetest memories were the ones eaten on the good China. The plates were more than a place to put food. They represented something significant to be celebrated, something sacred.
My mom’s China pattern was Blue Flower Haviland. It is a simple white plate with delicate blue flowers edged with platinum trim. The pattern was all the rage in the early 1970s and was considered a lovely nod to elegant Victorian style. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or special Sunday family meal was carefully orchestrated with those plates as the foundation.
As a kid, I can remember setting the table and thinking we were the luckiest family on the earth to eat our meals on those delicate blue flower plates.
Maybe you don’t have good China or were never given family plates passed down from generations. Maybe you can’t relate to eating meals like that growing up. But truly, the “good China” idea is more than the material thing. It’s truly about creating the intention of how you celebrate the daily meal.
However you set your table, my encouragement is to consider it a ritual worthy of your time. Whether the table is set just for one or for many, it is an act of self-care that is more than about eating. When we lay out the plates, the napkins, the glasses, we are carving out a space for ourselves and others to come, rest, be present. We have prepared a place for our hearts, whether humbly or lavishly.
I think my mom and the previous generation knew this act of care was important. They had faced wars, depressions, scarcity, and plenty. They knew what it was to be hungry and without nice things. So when they used good China, they meant it more as an act of love. They wanted those they treasured most to see the daily meal as a lovely place, worthy of the best China. In this way, I think our parent’s generation knew a secret worthy of being remembered.
Every day we have the opportunity to care for ourselves and others well – by sitting down to the table. Whether elegantly or simply, we have the opportunity to gather, gaze upon our favorite faces, hold hands, and giving thanks for the blessings. If we are alone, we have the chance to breathe, to savor the meal, notice the beauty in the food before us.
When we take the time to gather, it is an act of remembrance for the good in our lives. Whether you are eating on inherited generations-old China or paper plates, my encouragement is to use your daily meals to honor the blessings in life. Gathering for the daily meal might be the most important thing you do for yourself and others today.