Natural Confections

by Carly Gelfond

Pretend something with me for a minute. You are 28 years old. It’s August and you’re standing in Bloomingdale’s, a department store you rarely set foot in except for the occasional free spritz of perfume in the cosmetics department. On this particular visit, however, you are on a specific mission. You are 28 but trying to envision yourself in middle age, serving a meal to guests during the holidays—say, brunch on New Year’s Day. Now, this is important:  What do your plates look like? Are they fine china? Bone? Casual? Are they Villeroy & Boch “French Garden” dinnerware or are they Kate Spade “Library Lane” platinum? Are they the plates you eat on every day, or a separate fancy set? Are they easily broken by your children? Do you even have children? You snap your gum. You go back for another free cookie in the Wedding Registry office.

Illustration by the author

All of which is to say, creating a wedding registry can be baffling for some people, in particular for those of us who are loyal patrons of Ikea. The whole lot of the dishes that John and I own probably costs less than a child’s ticket to the movies. And yet, this is not to say that we don’t take presentation seriously. (Or rather, as the owner of a set of squirrel-shaped candle holders, “seriously” might be the wrong word.) After all, presentation is the fun part of entertaining. It’s kind of like you’re creating a show, one in which the audience will participate. As a host, you have the ability to set the mood. You design the set, the music, the lighting, your own costume. And of course, this is a show in which food will be part of the story, so you decide what will be served and how, and then you prepare it. The main event, of course, is improv, with all of the guests taking part.

But to return to the dishes. We like ours—simple and white, inexpensive but making for a clean and uncluttered table setting. We like the way food looks on them.

The way you entertain is—or should be—a reflection of who you are. Which brings us back to Bloomingdale’s, where we are standing in front of the Wedgwood “Renaissance Gold” five piece place setting, envisioning a Christmas Day ham served on it twenty years from now. The way you entertain is a reflection of who you are—but the challenge is that who you are changes.

So, how does this story end? The suspense is killing you, right? Well, some things are better left private when it comes to getting personal in a writer’s monthly column, but I will say that we did ultimately come to a decision. Before we committed, we bought two test plates and two test bowls. We used them for everything, from morning cereal to salmon with a side of minty smashed peas. They were indeed versatile. Sitting down to dinner one night—just the two of us—our peas looked striking, a brilliant shade of bright green against the test plate. I took a bite. Buttery but also sweet and minty fresh. The plate passed its audition, and so did the food on it, a side dish worthy of being served to company. Will our dinnerware continue to please in twenty years? It’s hard to say. We can only hope for them what we do for ourselves: that we will all age gracefully.


Minty Smashed Peas

Adapted from Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver



3 10-ounce packages of frozen peas

4 tablespoons butter

1 large handful fresh mint leaves

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Place peas in a saucepan with ¾ cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, simmering for about four to five minutes. Drain and immediately return peas to pan. Add butter. Stir until butter is melted and distributed. With either an immersion blender or potato masher, mash peas, leaving a few peas whole. Chop mint and stir into peas. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on whichever plates make you happy.

December 2012