"Like the study of science and art, accounts of historical events can be intrinsically fascinating. But they have a wider significance. I believe that people are better able to chart their life course and make life decisions when they know how others have dealt with pressures and dilemmas---historically, contemporaneously, and in works of art. And only equipped with such understanding can we participate knowledgeably in contemporary discussions (and decisions) about the culpability of various individuals and countries in the Second World War. Only with such understanding can we ponder the responsibilty of human beings everywhere to counter current efforts at genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to bring the perpetrators to justice."
"...we humans are the kinds of animals who learn chiefly by observing others---what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves from day to day, and especially, what they do when they believe that no one is looking."
----Howard Gardner, from The Disciplined Mind, published in 1999

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More Practical Magic; or, Kitchen Love

When our friend Swampy wrote in her post about the warmth, color, and light of the kitchen in all its manifestations, and the green glass that transmitted that light, that love, I was delighted, and for more than one reason.
In the midst of Anita's party, I was already thinking and feeling about what we all can bring to the table, to this life, and was all the more happy for it.
I was delighted in reading Swampy's words because I was reminded that sometimes those everyday articles from the kitchen, and those we oftimes use to bring our offerings to the table, are as full of meaning to us as the gifts and the gatherings about the table themselves: metta you can hold in your hand.
I was delighted because my special kitchen feelings are evoked by green glass as well: Fire King Jadeite, the tableware used day in and day out by my grandmother, and therefore, such a powerful touchstone for all those feelings and thoughts that are so difficult to put words to---thoughts and feelings so much more easy to speak of by the dance in the kitchen, the putting on the plate, the enjoying with others---be it in the present, or be it in our memories.

Dear reader, at one point in my life, I was a single parent without a home; having only my toddler (now Big Guy), the clothes on our backs, and a garbage bag hastily crammed with favored toys; although this stage of our life lasted for a relatively short time, I still struggled as a single parent, as so many of us do.

Yet I valued so highly what the Fire King Jadeite embodied that I once bought 12 plates I found at a flea market for 5 dollars each---and believe me, at that time, 60 dollars for plates that I did not need, but merely wanted, was a frivolous amount, ridiculously so.
You see, I felt so torn from so much of the goodness I had previously known, dear reader, and flung so far away from it: I felt as if those plates were a means, a map, to help me return to what I knew once before, long ago. If I held one, if I ate from one, and served my son what I cooked on one, I could almost barely feel my heart soften and turn---some embryonic feeling that I hoped would grow, and live, and breathe.
Of those original 12, I have but 6 that remain. Looking back, I'm glad for my frivolity, that leap of faith: I bought the insurance, hope-against-hope that remains with me today, despite the bumps and bad breaks along the way. They are ever present at our table.

Do you have a favorite touchstone from the kitchen? I'd love to hear about it, dear reader.

I'm glad to know that at the flea market, some wisdom older than myself knew better: yes, I wanted the plates; yet, I needed them just as much---perhaps even more so.
Dear reader, may you always have what you need, in the same magic and beautiful ways that a stack of glass has worked for me.
Thank you so much for joining me at the table.

Older Sunbeam mixer and child's "toy" mixer
with Fire King Jadeite mixing bowls


swamp witch said...

I'm so glad that even though this day is busy, busy, busy for me...I took the time to pull up a chair and join you at your table set with those six plates and the reflections cast from them that you shared with us.
Your words always remind me to
B-R-E-A-T-H-E and live in the moment.
Thank you.

neroli said...

Swamp Witch, you're welcome! I'm so glad to see you pull up a chair to the table, just as I'm glad to pull up a chair at yours.
Between the two of us---our memories and our green glass---it's as if we're sittin' pretty in Emerald City :)!
(I always wanted to dye my eyes to match my gown ;-)!

neroli said...

Oh, of course, I would have had to have *had* a gown in the first place!

Pelicano said...

Neroli...these little coincidences are starting to freak me out a bit, but I'll try to keep this story short.

When I was just in grade-school, my great-grandmother gave us a bunch of odd plates and such to use at our summer cottage. We never thought anything of those pale-green glass plates at the time. My parents separated (and three years later divorced) when I was 18; the cottage was sold, but my father took all of the dinnerware and kitchen things with him. Years afterward, Martha Stewart started showing off her collection of A-H jade-ite...so...I asked my father if he still had any of it laying about somewhere. Indeed he did- some of them at least. They were his "extras"- rarely-used, as he and his new wife had acquired matching dinnerware sets for everyday and "best". So... I have these now. But I gave up on trying to get a full set as the current value is so high: I've seen the 11" plates (Jane Ray pattern) selling for $30-40 a piece!

But indeed, these pieces are also tied very strongly to my own childhood, and remind me of those warm summer days that my sis and I spent out-of-doors doing most anything we pleased.

BTW love the vintage mixers!

neroli said...

Pel, what a wonderful story---I'm so glad that you have your own stack of green glass to wish upon!
(It's funny that you mention MS--for as I was writing the post, in the back of my mind, I was wondering: if she had not been such a visible collector, and therefore had a mass following collecting her tastes, would Jadeite be more affordable for we True Believers today? I laugh at those $5 plates now!)
I love those mixers too---can't imagine how much those would set a person back :-0!
I've saved all the broken plates. One of these days I thought I'd make a Schnabel---I've seen him lecture, and thought at the time he was a blowhard, but boy---gotta love those plate paintings!
Wait, I kind of like that kitschy Humpty-Dumpty on black velvet too.
(would that be another coincidence?)

captain corky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
captain corky said...

I have a lobster pot that I cook all of my favorite starches in. Spaghetti, Mac-n-cheese, and my favorite mashed potatoes. I don't think I could live without that pot!

My mother has cookbooks that have stains from the 60's and 70's that I wouldn't mind getting my hands on someday.

neroli said...

Captain, you're absolutely right---some pots must be for only certain things :)
Thank you!
I am sure you are eager to cook for Corky Jr. out of that pot.
(that could be your "in" in acquisitioning your mother's cookbooks---its for Corky Jr. :-)!
Stained cookbooks are of the best sort, for certain.

Pelicano said...

Most definitely MS's visual parade of Jade-ite upped the market value, as I'm sure that there were many MS-wannabees who began collecting right after what-was-once-considered-dated-cheap-glass-dinnerware suddenly had her stamp of approval and "good taste". Funny how other A-H F-K patterns remain quite low... for instance: I have an abundance of peach lustre "Laurel" that isn't worth selling really; therefore I'll hold on to it. I like orange anyway!

Schnabel? I've never heard of him, but I'll be looking him up in a moment. I take it he enjoys working with broken glass and ceramic to form mosaics? Always a good thing...not only is it good recycling, but 'out of destruction new things are created'.

neroli said...

I like that orange too!
I was thinking Schnabel like this:


(of course, I'm dating myself here :-)
Your quote? Perfect. Beautiful. True!

neroli said...

PS--and that's what my own "bull in a china shop" painting would speak to...

Pelicano said...

I checked out the two links(thank you!), especially I enjoyed looking at the auction pieces. "Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites," by Mike Kelly...that's way cool. Reminds me of some installations I attempted in past apartments. I don't know why, but every room I've ever inhabited becomes a bit more sculptural than...uh...most other people's...rooms. Functional though! Mostly.

I hadn't taken a closer look at your avatar-pic until now... Is that a shy guy sitting in the next seat? Or, perhaps you are a stranger to Mario and Yoshi...

Diane O'Connor said...

That is SOOO lovely. I am a single mom. My daughter is grown now and she is visiting me today before she goes back to school to finish her last year at North Park University. Your entry reminds me of so much. When she was small, when I put her to bed, we would ask each other "what 3 things were you grateful for today?" It could be anything! Later, it evolved into "Where did you see God today?" I suspect there is a touch of the divine in those plates that you have written about so beautifully.

neroli said...

Pel, I'm glad you enjoyed the links. Now I'll have to go back and check out the piece you referenced. I really enjoy installations---functional or non-functional *grin*
I have the same tendencies in that regard myself---much more under control now than in times past :)
As for the avatar picture, I'll make a post :)

Diane, thank you so much for your comment; you know implicitly what I'm trying to say, and if you say I've done well, that's a great thing---so thank you!
And you know what? My guys and I still do that end of the day question :)
(I can see that I can look to you for advice when Big Guy graduates from high school and leaves home 2 years from now!
Do you take post requests ;-)?)
And yes, indeed, I love the idea of the divine in the everyday, utilitarian things. For me, that's the most meaningful kind...
(my buddha is a Potato Head made from parts well-played, for instance ;-)