“The Dish Ran Away with The Spoon!”


How many plates should a family of five have? Better yet, how many plates can a family of five possibly need? Logically, a plate for every member of the family, plus half a dozen more for potential guests. For those who constantly and lavishly entertain maybe double that. We host guests often, once a month at the least, but I still don’t find any reason why one would stack up on all these beautiful plates.

I took a stroll around the house and what I found was absurd. Fifteen sets of coffee and tea cups. A set for each season identified by the pattern on the cup; one for each demographic if you wish. The clear tea cup, or the coffee cup without a handle is for the middle eastern person, the old fashioned kind. The opaque tea cup or the coffee cup with a handle, both come with a saucer, is for the modern sleek guest. The mugs are for convenient friends.

For the plate sets it gets a tad more complex. I found roughly 6 different sets of plates. That is 3 different size/depth plates per set. One set was used when we were children and is kept aside (unused) for sentimental purposes. Another set is for daily family use. Three different sets for guests. One is for the casual guests or close friends. The other is for the guests who show up a few times a year. The final one, the porcelain ones (not ceramic or glass) with it’s navy blue and white vintage print, still stored in the boxes they were bought in, possibly used once in a lifetime, is the sort that comes out if we are hosting a diplomat or equivalent.

Nine different sets of crystal glasses, and this is for a family that do not drink other than juice or water. Jugs, mugs, serving dishes, plates, salad dishes, fruit salad bowls, soup bowls, cereal bowls, dessert bowls, ice cream bowls, and rice pudding bowls.

My simple simple mind couldn’t wrap around the fact that most of these are for display. Not for use! Just put there to show people that we own nice looking glass. Glass! The first thing that would shatter if there was an earthquake. The first thing that would fragment if there was any kind of natural disaster. Definitely not the first thing one would run to grab in a burning house; and I am sure none of these have a force majeure clause upon purchase.

This is without mentioning the pans, pyrex, tefal, teflon, ceramic, pressure, and tajine pots, or pottery. Let the pottery break each other! There are 15 different water boilers to make tea/coffee. I don’t even want to get started on the cutlery. The electronic equipment used to cook or prepare the food is overwhelming to look at, forget assembly and use.

The only event that we could have utilized all our glassware was a dinner we hosted at the birth of my son. We had more than 50 guests present, but we didn’t use our precious glassware nor our cutlery. Noooo! We borrowed everything from a catering company. Well, since we have 6 different sets of plates, none of them matches the other, so they wouldn’t look good together. What else? Oh, and the hassle of taking them all out from their storage place, stacking them for use, cleaning them and putting them all back.

What ever happened to disposable plates? They’re cheap, serves the purpose, easy to store, and doesn’t require cleaning. The blasphemy if we were to serve in them! What I know is that a plate has one function and one function only; to hold food. It has turned into an indirect medium to reflect taste, and social status. Or maybe its just a cumbersome obsession.

The thing is, my grandparents fled Palestine with nothing. I’d like to think that all these plates were bought so when we return we don’t return empty handed.


4 responses »

  1. It’s not about most Arabs or not…certain dishes or desserts or drinks require a certain cup or dish to be placed in.. I know it may sound silly.. like what’s the difference.. they are all plates, they are all cups, they are all spoons.. but how food is poured, displayed..etc. is important for most people who cook. it’s like a rule kind of thing..

  2. Funnily enough when my grandmother left Palestine she took her cherished tea and dish set with her which was made in checkoslovaia back when it existed as a country (I think its the only think she packed… like everyone else she felt she will be back in a few weeks)

    Ironically enough half off it shattered during an earthquake that hit lebanon in the late 70s (just like u mentioned in the post)

    More than 60 years later its still in its place on the display cabinet… I don’t remember every seeing it used once

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