My Family Story
Many of you ask me about the dishes which I use in many of my culinary photographs as you like the bold colors and want to know more about them. After all these years, I think it’s time I tell you the story of what the dishes are and why I use them – ultimately they mean “love” to my heart. You see, once upon a time I was a little girl that grew up on a farm in Indiana. I loved spending time on my grandparent’s farms as well and one particular Indiana grandma was my inspiration – she was a feminist before the term was coined, she spent time taking me to museums and having intellectual discussions with her grandchildren, and she inspired me to believe that being a strong woman is important. She also showed me that function and beauty is often one in the same in the way we live our lives. With a lovely cutting garden filled with zinnias and gladiolus, she would cut flowers and set them in gorgeous little vases around her home. It was here that she served tea to we girls (see photo right – I’m the one of the far left); sometimes in Fiestaware tea cups and sometimes in fancy, hand-painted antique tea cups. We often sat together in two red leather chairs in front of the picture window, clutching a tea cup while playing vicious rounds of canasta with Grandma.
My grandmother lived in middle of farm country, isolated from much of the urban world, yet she had an inordinate sense of art, style, and culture. I loved visiting her because she truly gave me a sense that there was more than just me in the world – there was a purpose for our being (see photo on left with my family – Grandma was 90+ years old in this photo). She taught that we make our lives through hard work and determination. My sisters and I were her rapt audience and soaked up her inspiration and passion for creative living. She taught us that food is more than something to eat, it is something to enjoy. We loved eating off of her Fiestaware dishes. She had a collection of classic original dinnerware which she purchased in the 50’s and 60’s in shades of green – light green, forest green, and turf green if I remember correctly – and we girls were allowed to choose which color plate we would eat off of every breakfast, lunch, and dinner we spent at Grandma’s home. I chose the light green every time and would be disappointed if I somehow missed my opportunity to pick that color. Below is a photo of our family sharing dinner together when I was perhaps 13 years old (note my light green Fiestaware plate). My sister Barbara took this photo and it resembles our own version of Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want” painting. Somehow those dishes represented my grandmother’s love and became inextricably tied to my mind as one of the truly beautiful moments in my childhood. Food, conversation, and happiness became associated with the serving up of beauty and color.
Style, Function, and Tradition
Remembering my grandmother is somehow directly connected to this dinnerware and, of course, I began my own collection of modern Fiestaware colors when I became an adult and started considering home living over 20 years ago. I have dinnerware in cobalt blue, plum, sea mist, cinnabar, yellow, and shamrock. I treat myself to a new place setting every few years – my husband would give them as holiday gifts. Every time I got a new piece I would be thinking of my grandmother and our family. An advantage in using them is that they are lead-free, and are microwave and oven proof, so can easily go from oven to table for meals. When I met the Homer Laughlin Fiestaware team at the International Housewares Show this season, I told them the story of my grandmother with a tear in my eye and how very much the dishes are connected to my family. I explained that while food can be “just food” to so many people, if we can have food look beautiful than we are likely to enjoy the culinary experience so much more.
Fiestaware is a tradition for many, and after our discussion the team agreed to send out a new color to add to my collection – Poppy – and I was over-the-moon with excitement to see how the color might blend with my existing dishes. Above you see some of my dishes combined with the new poppy color. I used the Colorama by Fiesta tool (see image below) to test the color combination online first before I ordered the dishes. I also received a custom colored Entertainment Set – which you can get if you go to the Homer Laughlin Factory.
I adore the bold color combinations and was thrilled to receive my first new Fiestaware color in a decade – chili olives, roasted garlic, and hummus never looked so good. I’ve tried the serving platters outside with appetizers in my herb gardens – guests enjoy the color and comment on how fun it is to have fresh food served from the garden with a bit of the creative. In fact, this is what it’s all about isn’t it? Building memories for our families. My grandmother made memories for me by using food, color, and style; my daughters are now a part of that family tradition too. I want to bring people together and think Fiestaware is a great way to celebrate style and function on the summer table while entertaining in the garden. Now you know why I share my culinary passion with you on these dishes; because if we are able to take a bite of love when we share food, then eating can become a joy.
Special note — The Homer Laughlin company did not pay me to write this story about Fiestaware – this is a real story from my life – but they did send me the new poppy color dinnerware to test. I love the new color and will continue to show it throughout the season – thanks Homer Laughlin!