Jul 10, 2010

Standing the test of time

A cautionary note to all young brides:  as you brandish those scanner wands around the department stores, choose wisely because your choices may be with you for a very long time.

Yesterday, I slipped into Smyrna's Target after my annual checkup (which is more like every-three-years, but that's not the point here...)  because I needed a new basic food grater.  Not because my old one wore out, but because I had yard-sale'd mine a year or two ago, and have regretted it ever since.  Case in point:  you can't grate zucchini with a mini food processor or a Zyliss rotary cheese grater.

After I picked up a new ergonomically designed grater, I glanced around at the plethora of other kitchen tools and gadgets and spotted a set of four Pyrex mixing bowls with lids, all for $20.  I snagged it  because my old set (a wedding gift) is looking worse for wear: one bowl was broken years ago, another has a big chip out of its side, making it a little hazardous to use, and they didn't come with snap-on lids.  After nearly 28 years of steady kitchen use, I figure it's time for a new set.  (Just like baseball has three strikes-and-out, if I can can come up with three rationales for buying a new something-or-other, the old one is o-u-t.)

As I washed and put the new bowls away, I started thinking about all the things I still have and use from among our many wedding shower gifts from almost 28 years ago:
  • Coffee mugs - check. This prized set of four err, three folk-art patterned mugs from Taylor & Ng are still among my treasured possessions.  And even though the original San Francisco store closed in 1985, they still offer reproductions online!  Who knew?  Two of my trio are used for drinking; one (the "early bird") proudly holds bacon grease and drippings.  (Sidenote:  Don't drink from a mug used for drippings.  It develops a special flavor that can only be described as vile.)

  •  Recipe books.  Betty Crocker and I have formed a permanent kinship, even though Joy of Cooking soon appealed to my evolving culinary skills.  But Betty is still my faithful kitchen companion, especially for tried-and-true baking recipes.  Except the page for pancakes and dumplings  which are permanently stuck together.
  • China and flatware - check and check.   Good flatware will outlast us all.  But to be honest, if I had it to do over again, I would have chosen a more formal and neutral china pattern. (That's another lesson to brides - don't fall for trendy cute stuff.  It will eventually date itself, but you'll be hard-pressed to replace it because of its sentimental value--and hefty replacement cost.)
  • Serving pieces - check.  I received more crystal and silver than I have ever really needed, but they are pretty to use for holiday dinners and other special meals.
  • Stemware - check.  But like the china, it doesn't get much use, nor do the "good" drinking tumblers and juice glasses.
  • Monogrammed linens - check (with some qualifications).  The hand towels are now among my "rags" (bad color choice more than anything else.)  A monogrammed blanket is in the back of the linen closet as an extra.  The sheets and bath towels eventually  became too worn out to use.  Reasonably priced high thread-count sheets wouldn't come along until much later. 
  • Plain Corelle plates - check. I've boxed up the dinner-size plates for kids moving out and needing some starter stuff, but those lunch-size plates have true staying power and have had daily use by toddlers, teens and adults for all our married life.
  • Measuring cups and spoons.  I have bought more over the years, but I still have the same scoops and spoons I received as a new bride. I wonder when recipes will convert to metric?  That will be the day I need to replace all my measuring devices.

What didn't stand the test of time?

Classic 1980s earth-toned pottery plates and bowls eventually went by the wayside, replaced by my beloved FiestaWare style plates, which got upgraded to square FiestaWare earlier this year.  A set of canisters (classic country blue pattern that screamed 80s) eventually found themseles boxed and headed for the attic.  Maybe they will come back as vintage chic.  Or not.

Pots, pans and toaster all eventually wore out with use.  I'm on my fourth or fifth generation of everyday glasses, although my first set was lovingly rescued and recycled:  my mother-in-law has my old brown tumblers, after I snubbed them in favor of newer glasses several years ago.  They may be ugly, but they are apparently sturdier than most of what I've bought in the years since.

Except for a few really good woven kitchen towels, the linens have been on a steady replacement cycle.

My first Oster "Kitchen Center" was replaced around Year 10, by a second one that looked just like the first one.  And that one was eventually replaced by a KitchenAid professional mixer.  Yes, I love my mixers and use them regularly, so I accept the fact they are bound to give out in time.

I can't tell you who gave me each of the items I still have and use. But when I look around my kitchen, I feel the love and good wishes that came from so many women who made sure I would have everything I needed to establish a happy domicile with my new husband (who thankfully has not needed to be replaced!)
Three pieces of advice to brides everywhere:
  1. Make sure you really, REALLY love that china pattern because it will be with you until your children or grandchildren finally offer it at an auction or yard sale.  Ditto for good flatware. 
  2. Indulge your whimsical side on the stuff you will use every day, because eventually you will wear it out and replace it (but even then it might take a while!)
  3. Most of all, treasure everything you receive (even the ugly stuff), because your friends and loved ones are showering you with gifts to bless your home and your new life together. 
May our marriages and our kitchen items all weather the storms of life and stand the test of time.