Sunday, September 5, 2010

Comfort Food: Blue Willow

Sometimes there's no better comfort than revisiting the past. In June, I became obsessed with the finest piece of audio equipment I ever owned, a computerized cassette deck made by Sharp in 1979. Sure enough, I found that baby on ebay and now it's mine again... can't say I use it for much of anything, but it sure sits pretty on the shelf.

This time, I'm fixated on something more utilitarian: dinnerware! When I was a kid, the family often dined off the classic Blue Willow plates that so many families have coveted over time. These were the real thing: made in England by Johnson Brothers, and even had little cracks from so much usage.

Josiah Spode first perfected the process of blue underglaze printing in Staffordshire, England in 1790 and created a hit with Blue Willow earthenware, whose pattern supposedly tells a story of young lovers who risk everything to be together, meet a tragic end and are transformed by love or the gods into a pair of soaring birds.

Sadly, when I moved to Washington into my first home, I had no sentimentality for mama Evelyn's pattern and eventually she sold the set to a friend who obviously had her own memories. Over time, I managed to find a Blue Willow coffee mug, which I adore... and that was it, until this month.

Searching the web, I found that the stuff is wickedly expensive: except for one vendor. Of all merchants, Walmart offers a 20-place setting for an amazing $55. Come to me, my Willow. Natch, I used some points to chop down the price and am now waiting for a $10 gift card I achieved through filling out surveys to buy a second set. It's as beautiful as I remember, manufactured in Columbia, which I suppose is better than China? And let me assure you, everything tastes twice as good on this dinnerware.

Blue Willow gives new meaning to comfort food.