Silverware is a funny thing. My guess is most people don’t pay much attention to it unless they go to pick up a fork and it’s dirty, or maybe when they are registering for wedding gifts. A spoon is a spoon. A fork is a fork. Big whoop, right?
It wasn’t until a few years at an Italian restaurant where I took notice. Instead of having one set of dishes or silver, everything was a little…different. All the plates were white, but slightly…different. All the silver was quality stuff – substantial, real silver – but no two pieces at the table matched. How odd it felt to cut into to chicken Parmesan with two beautiful instruments so clearly designed to function apart. My silverware at home was a small set of discontinued Crate & Barrel, which was missing a few forks, and reminded of times I would have rather forgotten. It looked nice enough but carried no character. Not that I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I didn’t think about silverware…
…and THAT got me thinking. Actually, it got me doing math (!) My 35 years multiplied by three meals a day totals out at somewhere around 38,000. That’s 38,000 occasions when I have held a fork or a spoon and used them to shovel something in my mouth. Thirty-eight thousand. Why would I spend so much time and money considering a shirt that I’ll wear, what -10 times, if that — and not pay attention to the objects that I handle every day? Why? Why was I not thinking about silverware?
You can’t tell the scale from the photo above but these are serving pieces. Large. They belonged to my father’s mother. My guess is they migrated to our house at a family dinner in the early 80s while the larger set of everyday forks and knives remained at my grandmother’s house. The story was that the set was purchased by my uncle as a gift for his mom while on military leave in or around Vietnam. I remember using them as a kid specifically because it was always my job to wash them afterwards while the adults sat around the table and drank. Everything else went in the pink dishwasher, but it was my job to wash the golden silverware by hand. At the time, I thought it was a rotten chore to give a kid because they were hard to handle without poking yourself on a fork tine, but, the knife-edges are irrationally dull. So, as chores go, it could have been worse.
Because the three lonely serving pieces were gold, I have never used them much. I just kept them around a memento of my father’s family. Then a couple weeks ago I spotted a coordinating assortment of those trident style forks and butter knives in a cast-off bins at Goodwill. I nearly did not get them, but then sold myself on the idea thinking they might make a good photo prop or something. Then the next week I spotted a few more at nearby store and took it as a sign: TAKE ME HOME. Then, of course I got on Ebay and there has been no turning back ever since.
Because they are handwash, I don’t see these gold beauties going into daily circulation. I’m not that fussy. My friend Ann (cherry blossom Ann) is a collector of all sorts of good things – a few years ago she was kind enough to gift me a set of Lady Hamilton silver, and it’s excellent stuff. A classic pattern, and durable enough to withstand the dishwasher but real enough to tarnish if I don’t occasionally hand wash with baking soda.
The one thing about the gold collection, though, is the odd shapes. Cappuccino spoons. Teensy shrimp forks.
I mean, WTF are these?
I don’t even know.
They all look alike, but non of them match. It’s especially obvious with the knives. Not the blades, not the handles. At a glance it all looks the same but is actually a hodge-podge of different sets. I sort of love that.
I love the idea of having a set of silver with a history. A past. I love the idea of everyday objects carrying a character and a history of their own. And now they are all chatting and dancing together together in my kitchen drawers.