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Bring on the fine china
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Bring on the fine china

It’s exquisitely delicate and disturbingly heavy — weighed down by the passage of time and bygone traditions.

I didn’t see my grandma’s collection of bone china and silverware until I was an adult, living in my own house with my own substantial collection of dishes and cutlery.

It arrived in a cardboard box delivered by my parents during a push to declutter. The box had been living in their basement unopened for years and now it was my turn to take on the plates, gravy boat and teacups given to my grandma Ada on her wedding day. And like my parents, I saw the heirlooms as more of a burden than a gift.

For a long time, my grandma Ada’s Aynsley China set lived in storage. (Eva Wasney / Winnipeg Free Press)

At one point my dad tried to sell the collection to a local antique dealer, but after pulling out the first piece the shopkeeper told him not to bother. This kind of fine china is ubiquitous and seemingly unwanted. I see piles of it every time I visit a thrift store.

Fashions have certainly changed over the years, but I think the lore of special occasion plateware is doing more to hasten its demise. I doubt my grandma used her china much, perhaps save for holiday meals or entertaining VIP guests. It was probably kept hidden away in a dining room cabinet — too precious for everyday use.

Honestly, that was my thinking too until recently. The white dishes with scalloped edges, a bright green ring and gold accents are stacked unceremoniously in my liquor cabinet. The box of silverware is currently acting as a stand for my computer monitor.

Grandma’s silverware (and novelty spoon) collection. (Eva Wasney / Winnipeg Free Press)

It feels wrong to mix these meaningful pieces in with my chipped IKEA plates and miscellaneous cutlery. Isn’t it uncouth to eat a bagel off fancy porcelain made by the legendary Aynsley China company in Staffordshire, England during the turn of the 20th century? (I’m not actually sure when my “Wendover” line was produced, if there are any china sleuths out there I would be interested in finding out).

My attitude has shifted recently after reading this article, Stop Worrying and Start Using Your Fancy China, and chatting with my sister-in-law. She recently inherited twice as much china from a late great-aunt in Toronto and is resolved to using it regularly. We ate our belated Christmas dinner on the plates and it felt perfectly unfussy.

The delicate porcelain plates currently live in a dining room cabinet full of booze bottles and board games. (Eva Wasney / Winnipeg Free Press)

I haven’t made the leap to eating all my meals on bone china yet, but I want to. What’s the point of keeping nice things if we never use them as intended?

As author Jaya Saxena writes in the article above: “When you make every meal an occasion, you don’t need to wait for one.”

Eventually, I’ll move the grandma’s collection into my kitchen cabinets, so I can think of Ada everytime I sit down to eat. And I’ll have to christen the routine with buttered toast and marmalade, for good measure.

Eva Wasney, arts reporter

Tasty tidbits

Winnipeg’s downtown Earls restaurant is moving a hop, skip and a jump down Main Street to a new location at the base of the Artis Building at 300 Main. The chain’s longtime York Avenue restaurant closed earlier this month and the new space is set to open March 14. Free Press reporter Gabrielle Piché has the details.

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VegOut!, Winnipeg Veg Fest’s second vegan food festival, kicks off on March 3 with more than 40 local restaurants participating. Competitors were tasked to come up with a new vegan dish, which will be voted on by diners during the 10-day event. The festival is also donating a portion of restaurant application fees to the Rainbow Ranger Station animal sanctuary. Click here for more details.

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Stella’s Café and Bakery continues to shift its operations in the city. Having recently opened an eatery in the Courts of St. James on Portage Ave., the company announced via social media that its bakery at 110 Sherbrook St. will be moving to 1699 Corydon Ave., next to Mona Lisa Ristorante.

And according to a city application, it looks like Good Neighbour Brewing Co., whose taproom is at 116 Sherbrook St. and includes food from Two Hands (as we wrote about recently), will be taking over the adjacent 110 spot and turning it into their brewery.

Recommended fare

Ben: British cartoonist Darryl Cunningham’s latest graphic novel, Putin’s Russia: The Rise of a Dictator, was published mid-February by Montreal’s Drawn & Quarterly, couldn’t be more timely. It’s a concise, well-written (and beautifully drawn) pull-no-punches account of the Russian president’s rise to power, drawn starkly and with sparse but vivid colours. Anyone looking for an explainer on Putin’s rise to power, including how things got to where they are in Ukraine, would be well-served by this graphic novel. Read more about it in Saturday’s Weekend Review.

In the tune-it-all-out category of TV, I’ve taken up watching the animated series Bob’s Burgers, which I had never seen before last week. I’m about 10 episodes in, and with over 200 to go, I’m loving it. It’s exactly my style of humour — bone-dry, slightly cynical, a bit dark and just on the edge of being completely inappropriate. The family of five — Bob, wife Linda and three misfit kids (Gene, Louise and Tina) — navigate the pitfalls of owning their little burger joint, and the completely ridiculous things that happen to them along the way. So far it’s been the perfect antidote to *gestures wildly everywhere*. Bob’s Burgers is on Disney+.

Eva: I have been dining out a lot lately. I think it’s a combination of laziness, seasonal depression and a desire to socialize in public. While I haven’t enjoyed wearing hard pants during the excursions I have enjoyed the food.

We stopped by Trans Canada Brewing on a Friday night for a few flights of beer and a very tasty chicken parmesan pizza. The artichoke dip exceeded expectations and there was live music happening in the taproom. The next night we sidled up to the bar at One Sixteen. It’s probably blasphemous to say, but I opted for a cocktail instead of a beer and really enjoyed the hop and tonic (which is made with gin and sparkling hop water). The smoked goldeye with soda bread appetizer was unreal. Lastly, I popped into Bonnie Day this week for some sourdough pizza with friends. I’m not much of a dessert person, but the pavlova is a must-do.

Homemade

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Free Press is making a community cookbook. Submit a recipe and be entered into a draw to win a copy of the cookbook and other prizes. You can also join our Facebook group.

This week we’re sharing a recipe for Greek Potato Stew submitted by Sandy Rubinfeld.

More stories to sink your teeth into


Cosy up with a cocktail

When the weather leaves you shaken, a boozy drink can stir up the heat Read More

 

This takes the cake

Local bakery owners revel in role as judges on sweet new Food Network show Read More

 

Top (kitchen) drawer bling

After a long career as a cancer research scientist, Landmark’s Gail Penner is focusing on her creative abilities, turning cutlery into fashionable jewelry pieces Read More

 

Indian spiced tea delivers dose of calm

With frigid temperatures and mounds of snow unrelenting these days, having a warm, soothing beverage is a simple way to beat the cold and find some comfort. Read More

 

Video: Taste-testing banana meatloaf

Free Press arts and life reporters Eva Wasney and Jen Zoratti try banana meatloaf, a dish introduced to Winnipeg homemakers in 1935 by the newspaper's first cooking columnist, Mrs. Madeline Day. Read More

 

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