Luckily, the success of a marriage doesn’t seem to be tied to the first dishes you get after your wedding. Because we’d be in trouble if that were the case. In 11 years, we are now on our third set of dishes. The first set, purchased with money we got at our wedding, could have been our downfall. It was a green stoneware that we both initially liked, with full settings for eight (never mind that our first apartment could not have held eight people). They didn’t hold up all that well, though, and over the years they all had came to have chunks missing, and a few plates had just cracked in half. And though they seemed expensive to us at the time, the set had been fairly cheap, so it wasn’t a great loss when we decided they needed to be replaced.
When we bought our second set, we were older, and maybe I’m kidding myself here, also a bit wiser. We did some research, found a pattern we thought we liked, and got them at a store that seemed like they wouldn’t sell complete junk. Out of the box the dishes looked great- they were square, with black plates and bowls, and white salad plates and mugs. They had a simple pattern, and the black and white seemed classic. The only real issue with these was how terribly they held up. Within a week one of the mugs had a crack in it, and one of the salad plates basically looked like it was about to divide itself in half. And over the several years since then, they pretty much all had chunks missing out of the edges. And we’re not hard on our dishes, I swear. The worst part was that with the black plates and bowls, the missing pieces were glaringly obvious. The stoneware underneath was white, so the missing pieces automatically became an accent we didn’t want. Through most of this blog so far, I’ve attempted to avoid the major chips when taking the glamor shots of Kate’s food. I’m sure I’ve missed a few though.
Last weekend, then, we went to the bastion of Nordic design, IKEA. While not known for their high quality, IKEA generally makes up for that by being cheap. And this time, we’d decided that simple white dishes would be perfect. And since they had a set of 6 settings for $25, how could we go wrong? We now own 12 place settings of totally simple white dishes. I actually think I like these better than anything we’ve had. And since they’re so cheap to replace if needed, maybe our smartest decision in a while. From what I’ve noticed so far, the pictures of the food on the simple white plates are turning out to be better than the old ones. So, without any more discussion of our domestic struggles to find good dishware, I present to you, a dish renewed.
Given my ability with this blog to post so many entries without being repetitive, you might have guessed that Kate’s culinary repertoire is vast. Sometimes when I’m asked for ideas for the week’s menu, my brain is faced with so many options it just shuts down. That or all I can think if is something we just ate last week. Recently I’ve noticed the first signs that Kate is also having trouble keeping track of everything she makes. She’s come across recipes for dishes we’d first had ages ago, but haven’t had in a long time. To look at the stack of cook books and recipes she has, this is really no surprise. Though I find the rediscovery of these recipes kind of fun, I suspect to Kate’s organized mind this seems some kind of failure. Which is probably why I’ve seen old recipes popping up more often lately.
Of course, I think revisiting old favorites is a good thing. For one, I just find comfort in the familiar. I like new things, but I like old things just as much. And often times with her now increased experience, the old dishes are even better than we once thought they were. At any rate, our dinner the other night represented one example of these renewed favorites. It was a gorgeous avocado and black bean salad that we’d first tried years ago. And the beauty of this salad is that though it looks fairly uncomplicated, it is in fact a myriad of different flavors. I am getting pretty good, however, at focusing the power of my taste buds to pick out all the distinct ingredients that go into her dishes these days. For once I’m glad I didn’t drown the salad in hot sauce, because I would have lost the delicacy of each of those flavors. Hidden by the avocado and beans were hearts of palm, corn, cilantro, dill, basil, lime juice and peppers. All of those flavors were distinct, and yet worked together to make the salad so pleasing to the palate.
Being something of a show(wo?)man these days, Kate focused a bit of time with this dish on presentation. I don’t actually recall if she’d done this the last time we had the dish, but presentation did seem fancier than usual. Using a metal ring probably intended to cut out cookies, she layered everything into a perfectly round pancake, with the avocado on the bottom and the beans over that. The herbs spread over the top artfully sprinkled the salad and plate. It was a pleasing dish to just look at. But since the point of food in the end is to provide sustenance, the beauty of the dish didn’t last long. Even with my focus on savoring every bite, I still sometimes forget to eat slowly. But with the re-discovering of this dish, I imagine I’ll be seeing it again soon. Until then, at least I have a picture.