I can’t take it. I can’t even dish it out!

The parenting forum (the only big one I’m still on, God permitting) had a poll about your family’s dishes. The excitement never ends!

I answered the questions, then read through the thread. And then I had the shock of my life: was the presupposition that we were supposed to have dishes that match?

Let’s just glance at my cabinet, shall we? From where I’m sitting, I can see four different kinds of cereal bowl. There’s one other bowl not visible from here. I own five different kinds of lunch dishes. Dinner dishes? Three different kinds. And they all go onto the table simultaneously.

When we got married, my Patient Husband had a set of four, and I had a set of four. We visited an estate sale and found service for 8 for $20. I bought them because they were brown and I’d never seen brown dishes before. (I’m SO sheltered.) Most of those are still in service.

My set of four went to my brother-in-law when he moved out on his own. My Patient Husband’s set of Correlleware has one at a time been reduced to shrapnel (which we did not, you will be relieved to note, try to glue back togetherleaving us with only three.)  Due to attrition, I recently purchased four tan dishes from the grocery store for a dollar apiece. These, the children squabble over. It is an honor, you understand, to eat from those.

Growing up in a blended household, we too had mismatched dishes. I can’t even remember what they looked like (Mom? Help?). We had dishes from us, dishes from my stepfather’s household, dishes from random places. When we went to Grandma’s house, I believe her dishes matched, but we kids drank out of those tough margarine cups with handles and ridged sides. In fact, I acquired those from the house when my grandmother died, and my children were using them for a while! Back in the days when we didn’t have wimpy #2 plastic, and our wretched refuse was being stored in the dumps for humanity to excavate in order to survive after World War III knocked us back into the stone age.

We shall not discuss the mug situation, only that even my sixteen month old knows that if Mommy comes home from The Salvage Store with even one more piece of glassware, Daddy’s head will explode. My 12 year old tells everyone he knows about the box in the attic labeled “Wine Glasses: Enough For Wedding At Cana.

Him: Mom, when you die, who inherits all those wine glasses?
Me: Whichever one of you visited me least in the nursing home.

I’ll have three visitors a day, guaranteed, even if it requires international travel. Don’t think I won’t do it.

At any rate, I asked the board if I were some kind of mutant because our table setting is a rainbow of straggling loners who’ve managed to find homes in my cabinet. Other moms reassured me it was okay. Dishes only need to hold food.


  1. K.M. Weiland

    This made me laugh – because it’s all too familiar. I’m a bit of an organizational freak, and it drives me crazy to have unmatching dishes in a place setting. But a look into my cupboards and silverware drawer shows a sad state of conglomeration… not to mention chips and cracks!

    1. philangelus

      Oh,yeah, chips. Many of them. I have a “set” of (er, random collection of vaguely matching) thick plastic mugs that I got after Kiddo#1, then three, decided he loved loading the dish washer. He broke two or three mugs in the same day.

      Once I went to someone’s house, and when she served lunch, she ate off a broken dish; by which I mean, a quarter of the dish was gone. But she said if she threw it out, she wouldn’t have enough dishes…and if she bought another dish, it wouldn’t match. So she had decided to eat off the broken dish.

  2. Diinzumo

    I’m single and I have more dishes than I will ever, ever need. First, there was the Noritake 4-place set I bought when I came back to the States, supplemented by a couple of garage-sale bowls and plates and some dishes I brought back from Japan. Then when I moved back to Florida, I inherited Mom’s blue-flowered 8-place set. I keep them because I thought she’d want them back (she doesn’t) and they go with the house’s flower-and-doily decor. Then Dad gave me his set of dishes (with a design I really like and they don’t make anymore). Add to that two sets of silverware and three sets of mixing bowls and five mismatched wine glasses…

    If you’re in need of dishes, let me know and I will send over the flowered 8-place. 😉

    1. philangelus

      Actually, why don’t I just ship you a box containing 32 wine glasses and you can host a dinner party, inviting the whole state? 🙂

      My MIL has something like four sets of fine china. Three of them she inherited. That’s part of why we don’t really have a set of china: I knew eventually one would show up, and (unfortunately) about ten years ago we inherited my grandmother’s.

      (I say unfortunately because it’s a beautiful set of china and my grandmother should still be here, eating off it on holidays, surrounded by a passel of grandchildren she didn’t get to meet.)

  3. Addie

    Oh, you should see our dish cupboard. There’s 4 of us in one flat and we have an insane collection of mismatched dishes. Both me and one of my flatmates have a problem with buying cute plates and bowls(the more colourful the better)-every time one of us hits a charity shop, new dishes are added to the collection. Add to this the fact that I had a 4 people set, she had one, our third flatmate brought 5 mismatched plates of her own and you get a very interesting dinner table. We’ve yet to al have dinner at the same time and have matching plates.

    Glasses though? Maybe 7 and that includes the wine glasses. They just keep jumping off tables, I swear :D.

  4. stutterrockstar

    I have dishes from the summer camp that Iworked at over 30 years ago. They are plastic with three separate food sections,so the peas don’t run in to the gravy or the spaghetti sauce doesn’t run into the bread, even though I will use the bread to wipe the remaining bits of sauce. Even though I actually do have one set of matching dishware, these are the plates I reach for over and over again.

  5. cricketB

    I hear you about things that hold places for things to be inherited. Fortunately, when my grandparents sold their house, both my cousin and I were within a few years of setting up house, so our parents saved stuff for us.

    My heirloom china is okay for 4, but things range from 4 to 12 pieces.

    I like Barbara Colorosso’s question: When your kids are packing up the dishes for the final time, do you want them to pack boxes of china they dusted every six months, or never saw, or only saw under dust — or do you want them to hold up the sugar bowl, sans lid, and remember the happy times eating dinner together, or all the mugs of tea shared over it.

  6. Dawn

    We had these plates growing up! Brown with brown flowers – I haven’t seen these in about 25 years!!!

    Thanks for a fun memory 🙂

    1. philangelus

      That’s so cool! 🙂 There are bunches of them up on ebay right now if you want to pick up a plate for old time’s sake. 🙂

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