Those who know me pretty well know that I don’t really worry too much about doing things like everyone else. Case in point: our get-togethers/cook-outs/chicken stews. Once, I really, really wanted to put my own version of B.Y.O.B. on an invitation to a chicken stew: Bring Your Own Bowl. But, my husband wouldn’t let me. He said, “Who would want to have to carry their own dirty bowl home with them after a party?” I said, “I wouldn’t mind!” He said, “Absolutely not.” I said, “Then I’m buying four more bowls.” He shook his head as he walked away . . . and we have used those bowls for going on fifteen years now!
There’s something about eating off of a styrofoam or a plastic plate that irks me. I’m not opposed to paper plates per se, but they can be a little flimsy. And although I would never call myself “cheap,” I hate paying for plastic forks and knives and spoons that are just going to be thrown away. You would think a person with all these aversions would also want to avoid get-togethers in general, but, no, I love people, and I especially love people when they are sitting around a camp fire telling stories. So, when my husband and I finally built a house of our own in 1995-1996, we immediately started “volunteering” as hosts for every occasion we could think of. I had a nice set of dishes from our wedding shower, but they were discontinued shortly after our marriage and I live in fairly constant fear that one of the pieces in that set will be broken, never to be replaced. So, I bought some very inexpensive, and very tough, dishes from Wal-mart called “Corelle” several years ago. They are basically white with some thin blue stripes around the edge. Then, my wonderful Grandma Cooke gave me her “everyday” dishes, which are Johnson Brothers “Blue Willow.” Then I found two Johnson Brothers “Asiatic Pheasant” dinner plates at a yard sale for a buck each. A new obsession was born! Over the next several years, I managed to accumulate a wonderful hodgepodge of blue and white dishes by frequenting Shopper’s Paradise (a local thrift store), Salvation Army, Goodwill, the Habitat Re-store, and even more yard sales. I have three absolutely beautiful floral patterned plates made by Churchill and several pieces that are yet another pattern by Johnson Brothers: “Elizabeth.” None of these pieces cost over a dollar, and, once, I was able to get four perfect saucers for just a quarter a piece! I began to move food out of the cabinet so I had more room to put dishes in! Then, four years ago, my father (who instilled in me the love of hiking and camping) passed away, leaving me not only his three sets of silverware, but also the two sets he had been left by his mother; suddenly I could invite half the county and not have to use a single piece of plastic anything!
So, last night we invited some old friends and one set of new friends over for a cook-out. The old friends were cool with everything, having survived my extremely casual get-togethers before. But, our new friends seemed a bit puzzled as our text messages went a little like this:
Them: Do you want us to bring anything?
Me: U can bring something or nothing. Either is fine.
Them: What do you need?
Me: idk. I haven’t gone to the store yet.
Me: We’ve got water.
Them: Paper products?
Them: Plastic cups?
Me: I think I’ll make a banana pudding.
Them: You haven’t made it yet?
Me: Not yet.
Newcomers are sometimes surprised when they show up to find that I use a real tablecloth on our patio table (I also have a nice yard-sale variety of those!) and that I pull our mish-mash of real plates straight from the cabinets and a huge handful of silverware straight from the drawer to be used outside. But they seem absolutely dumb-founded when it’s time to pour the drinks and I roll out every Tervis tumbler we own, plus any other drinking vessel to be found, including, occasionally, glass canning jars. I guess there’s just something inconspicuous about my “greenliness” until a person actually comes to my house and sees it all up close and personal. Last night, we had 9 adults and 3 adolescents eating cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chips, and veggie pizza, followed by chocolate-chip pound cake, cookies, banana pudding, and s’mores, and we produced less than one half of a bag of trash (most of that trash was from the packaging the meat came in). The onion peel, the banana peels, the tomato cores, etc. etc. were all pitched toward the garden, and the left-overs (not that there were many) were either fed to the dogs or put in the refrigerator for us to eat later. When the party ended around 1am, my husband loaded up the dishwasher with 11 plates, 11 saucers, 11 tumblers, and assorted forks, spoons, and knives, and we were done!
We’ve done the same thing at chicken stews, in which we pull out every bowl we own, including those from the camper. And we do the same thing at birthday parties. And while camping. We have had get-togethers with well over 30 people here and never had to use a single styrofoam bowl or a plastic fork.
I just got up and counted all the plates in our kitchen, and if you include the 7 dirty plates that are currently in the dishwasher, we have 56 plates available at this very moment . . . and, if we were to become extremely desperate, I could pull out the 12 plates from our wedding set, and we’d have 68! My gosh, I think I need to invite some people over!
Writing about this makes me remember the time I had a small supper for my mother’s birthday. In my celebratory spirit, I forget to wash the load of laundry that contained our cloth napkins, so as we sat around the table, my mother’s good friend asked, “May I have a napkin?” I jumped up to grab one, then noticed that there was — gasp! — only one. I handed it to her friend, who politely wiped his mouth and placed the napkin in his lap. Within minutes my mother said, “Lori, I need a napkin also.” “I’m sorry,” I replied, “But that was the only one. You two will have to share.”
The next year, for her birthday, mom requested that we take her out to eat.
It’s true: we all have our idiosyncrasies. It takes a special type of person to be my friend . . . the type of person who doesn’t mind that I never make a list before a party, that I don’t even think about dessert before the day of . . . the type of person who will hold my garage sale blue and white plate in their lap with a reverence born of respect . . . for our earth, and for our Creator.
Copyright 2014 Lori Creed