Easy livin’


If we were getting married now, I observed to my husband, we’d be registering for melamine at Target.

We were putting away the dinner dishes. I was heading off to a wedding the next day. The couple had registered at the usual places, which now includes William-Sonoma, new territory in our day.

Our wedding china, lovely and safe in a cupboard, has seen a good deal of use, the gold rims worn in places by the rigors of the dishwasher, but is not the thing for all of this outdoor living or for our helpful and good children setting and clearing the table, loading the dishwasher. Nor are the everyday white china plates, of which only a few remain anyway. The dog managed to break about five when, on being told off for licking them in the rack of the dishwasher, his collar caught and he pulled out the rack, crashing it to the floor.

Our Jasper Conran salad bowl worries me. I pat it dry and gently place it back on the shelf. I have just returned from Target with a bagful of unbreakable tumblers in an ironic, 60s pattern.

In London, we packed Ikea plates for picnics, bringing tabbouleh in a plastic container, and supermarket packs of Parma ham, a homemade frittata. Indoors you used china plates. Here there is a new middle ground, where the plastic box is too casual and the china overdressed.  Or we’re having TV dinner. Or, going out, to the pool, pool season is almost upon us, you bring a dish, and this too requires melamine, your name written on the underside in Sharpie.

I remember the triumph of my husband’s housemate in college when finally someone had managed to break a Correlle plate. Better that than have it follow you into your adult life, with its wan translucence and hideous twee floral motif. The pieces were put in a paper bag and stapled to the kitchen wall, which was a montage of their communal life. A pre-web log.

Also stapled to the wall was a note from campus security about a man who been reported wielding a “knief,” which became, to us, (snotty, good-speller, college kids), “a big, angry k’neef,” a bit of parlance that has survived and is now used, incredibly, by the girls as they clear or assist in the kitchen, having absorbed the bravado and arrogance of it on some level and also just wanting to use our language with us. Because danger then was a joke, the domain of tedious bureaucrats making arbitrary rules about boring things when we were busy with, like, art and other stuff that did not involve putting up signs to tell people how to behave. Of course the fact that knives, or k’neefs, are dangerous and the girls have registered our cautions and, in spite of the younger one’s unease about knives, will now  mock the knife’s potential for harm means that while we authored the joke we are also, ultimately, the butt of it. Like my father, I say things like, “I see you have hung your coat up on the floor.” But we’re okay with that. Just don’t leave the glass on the edge of the counter like that or it will…

But, see, with melamine, it’s just a little more relaxing for everyone. And Target does nice patterns.

Readers who were not quite sure what to make of the post in praise of tuna noodle casserole will be a little perplexed by this, too. Perhaps more so when I express my own flummery at what type of meals one would bring as appropriate and/or desirable covered dish items. Surely not a tuna noodle casserole. You can be retro with squash casserole, I think, or even sun-dried tomatoes, but not too spicy, and nothing too weird like remoulade. Suitable recipes most gratefully received in the comments section!

Sharpies, ziploc bags and Target. Summer, as sang The Breeders, is ready when you are.


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