11.27.2009

Serve it Forth



I’ve long admired the silver collection of one of my dearest girlfriends, Frances, a mix of family heirlooms and flea market finds from her travels as a style editor. I love the way she displays them upright in glasses in her boudoir, and how willingly she creates excuses to pull them out and serve forth a dose of her fine southern hospitality. I credit Frances’ civilized upbringing, one that I esteem with admiration and she with good humor, for her entertaining aplomb, and I’ve come to regard her fine collection of silver as synonymous with being a lady.
I began my own collection in earnest when I lived in St. Tropez several years ago, where I spent summers as a private chef. There, I discovered a flea market 20 minutes outside of town, and planned my days off around its arrival. From my elegant employer, I learned how to tell real silver from silver plate, how many francs I should expect to pay, and how to set a fine table with the curious pieces I was slowly acquiring.
I brought my petit collection home to New York, but the fine table, or space for one in a city apartment, would have to wait.
Just before my wedding last year, my mother brought out my grandmother’s worn wooden silver chest and placed it in front of me, her gift to me. Together we pulled out a collection of mismatched pieces, tucked carefully inside hand-stitched silver cloth, and went through them one by one. Each piece was more elegant than the last. Mom told me what she knew about each one, the pieces that had survived a tornado on her grandmother’s farm in Iowa, those that had come over from Germany, the ones that must have come from my grandfather’s side, marked with a P. In them I found history, a connection to a great-grandmother I never met and to a voyage across a sea to a new land in pursuit of hopes and dreams that far predate my own. Finally, I had the silver collection {and the inherent lady-likeness} I’d been pining for.
Over the last year, I’ve plated dinner for four and served brunch to friends with silver spoons in the tiny studio I share with András, but there is no space for formal feasts, much less on a table set with our finest. So on Thanksgiving, when our friend and hostess Kirsten asked if I had any serving spoons and forks I could bring along, I was thrilled to wrap up my collection and tote them over with our cranberry relish, walnut breads and pumpkin pies.
Yesterday at Thanksgiving, my silver collection made their big debut at someone else’s table, and as I listened to the comforting clinks of forks and spoons, I couldn’t have been more proud that they were part of a meal designed to celebrate gratitude to what he have, and even what we don’t have {in my case, that sprawling apartment with a dining room table}. It was a meal to be remembered for many years to come.

5 comments:

rebekka said...

Your comments on my blog were so sweet, they almost made me cry. I love this post...I never properly registered for silver when I got married, but I am fixing to start a silver collection that will knock everybody's socks off.

xo
Rebekka

claire said...

This year, I bought myself some flatware (though not silver) for my 25th birthday and got ridiculed for being an old lady! AH! So glad to discover you!

sarah said...

Claire, welcome! I hope you stay for a while. Proper flatware is not an old lady thing, just a lady thing. And it's such fun to be a lady! I'm so glad you treated yourself!

The Runaway Spoon said...

I love this! I am so sentimental about family silver, a trait I get from my mom. From my grandmother's silver tea service, to the sterling butter plates monogrammed with the other grandmother's initials to the silver goblets I borrow from my mom, I love to set the table with the silver and the stories. I have a special place for the things I have bought for myself as well - ladles from Peru and an antique champagne whisk!

sarah said...

An antique silver champagne whisk? Monogrammed silver butter plates? Swoon. They sounds so lovely, as do the ladles from Peru. How special! I would love to see a picture of your pretty table some day. Come back and visit again soon!

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Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.