It started innocently enough. I Tweeted a picture of a serving dish from The Hart and the Hunter and asked, “If I want to find a plate like this on E-Bay, what would I search for?” (OK, ending a sentence with a preposition isn’t so innocent, but go with me here.) A few people responded: “Transferware.” I Googled Transferware, to get a definition, and Wikipedia offered: “A style of ceramics including pottery, dinnerware, and other delicate items. It uses transfer printing, a decorative technique which was developed in England in the mid-18th century, particularly around the Staffordshire region.” Then I started searching for Transferware plates on E-Bay and I haven’t been able to stop since.
Next to Proof Bakery, here in Atwater Village, is an Out of the Closet thrift shop that sometimes I wander into to check out their cookbooks or other random things that they have gathered on their tables and shelves. Rarely do I find anything that I actually buy but it’s fun to poke through everything while sipping an iced coffee beverage. The other day, though, a strong light came in through the window and focused on a box on a table as an angelic choir began singing from the heavens. “The hills are alive,” the voices sang in unison as I suddenly saw what the light was hitting: a box. The box you see above. I slowly staggered over to it and then opened it up and beheld the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen….
There’s an eye-rolling threshold for home cooks when it comes to chef tricks. At some point, a chef will tell the home cook to do something that causes them (at least internally) to roll their eyes. “You want me to peel chickpeas before making hummus? REALLY?” That sort of thing. And I have to confess, even though the large majority of chefs I met writing my cookbook advised me to warm my serving dishes before serving hot food and chilling my dishes before serving cold food (like a salad), I secretly rolled my eyes at the idea. “I’ll never really do that,” I told myself.
My favorite food blog, of late, is Canal House Cooks Lunch. It’s deceptively simple: every day, the women of The Canal House (that’d be famed cookbook photographer Christopher Hirsheimer and former Saveur test kitchen director Melissa Hamilton (who also happens to be Gabrielle Hamilton’s sister and a prominent figure in “Blood, Bones & Butter”)) take a picture of what they make and eat for lunch and post it on their blog. Every day. You’d think that could get boring fast, but it’s quite the opposite: I find their pictures/posts to be exciting and, more importantly, inspiring. Especially how the food always pops; and part of that, I realized, has to do with their white plates.
The last time I wrote about dishes on this blog it was in April 2008 when I wrote a post called “Meet The Plates.” Serious Eats was amused and linked to it in a post called “Adam Roberts’s Quirky, Idiosyncratic Plates.” The idea back then, in 2008, was that each of my guests at dinner would be given a uniquely patterned plate that possibly reflected how I felt about them (if you were given a flower, it meant that I thought you were virginal; if you were given golf clubs, it meant that I thought you were a lesbian.)
But times have changed and I’ve changed with them. The time had come for new plates and today, with a little help from my mom, I finally bought them.
Our old IKEA plates were getting cracked and crackly and I recalled a meal I ate at a restaurant recently (though I don’t remember which specific restaurant–The Little Owl?) where all the entrees were served on quirky, idiosyncratic plates. “Hey!” I said to myself. “I want some quirky, idiosyncratic plates. When it’s time to get new plates I’m going to get some quirky, idiosyncratic plates.”
Well if there’s one place in New York to get quirky, idiosyncratic plates it’s Fishs Eddy. And so it was that last week, when the last IKEA plate chipped, I made a journey to Union Square to visit Fishs Eddy for some quirky, idiosyncratic plates.