With dramatic downsizing and deaths among some of my elderly relatives, there has been a large supply of housewares in the family pipeline over the past few years. Since Scott and I sold and donated so much of our stuff before moving to Kazakhstan, we have been gratefully accepting a good number of things that were looking for new homes. It's fun to have things that belonged to someone else in the family; plus, it's always one less thing for us to buy now.
A box of china made its way to my dad some months ago. It had belonged to one of his grandmothers, who died before I was born. He asked me if I wanted it. I hesitated, thinking I would have to wash everything by hand. But my dad said he thought it would be okay in the dishwasher, and that if it wasn't, nobody was going to be upset about it.
I looked at one plate at the time to check out the floral pattern on it, but left the rest packed away until we moved in to our new apartment. When I started unpacking the china, I was fascinated by some of the stuff I found. First of all, there were twelve (!) teacups. They were much smaller and daintier than the cups people generally use now to drink the hot beverage of their choice, and they came with saucers! There was a set of small, shallow bowls whose intended function I can't guess. Dinner plates were to be expected, of course, but the ones in this set are smaller than modern dinner plates. (Maybe the small dinner plates will encourage me to eat less! Ha!) Then, I unpacked further and found a sugar bowl, cream pitcher, and gravy boat!
I had a similar experience with silverware. We were already using a set of silverware that had belonged to my mom's aunt, but we kept running out of key pieces like "regular" forks and soup spoons. So when my dad offered us a set of silverware from my grandparents' old house, we took it to supplement our existing silverware. I found some pretty amazing things in that box, too. I found spoons with abnormally long handles (iced tea spoons?). I found tiny forks with three tines. A casual web search suggests that these are dessert forks. The forks that I had thought for years were dessert forks (the ones that are a bit shorter than "regular" forks) are evidently fruit forks, at least according to the website I consulted. This set of silverware even came with a cake server, which seems like a very good excuse to eat more cake.
In the end, space limitations and the near certainty of another move within the next several months are making me pass up this opportunity to become a classy person who knows how to set a table properly. The gravy boat from the china set is destined to find a new home because it's rather bulky and gravy is not a part of my regular dinner rotation. There are only so many beverages I care to drink in very small quantities, so half of the teacups, as well as all of the saucers that came with them, will similarly be sent on their merry way. I would probably keep the sugar bowl and cream pitcher, except that I already have ones that I like, and the thought of having everything match doesn't seem like a compelling enough reason to keep extras on hand.
I haven't yet decided the fate of some of my more outlandish silverware. Silverware is smaller and less breakable than china, so it doesn't pose the same immediate set of problems. Something tells me, though, that even if I keep the entire set, I will probably continue in my terribly uncivilized habit of using "regular" forks for every part of the meal, even though I have the opportunity to do otherwise.