Thursday, April 20, 2006

Utensil Liberation

The arrival of unseasonably lovely weather has driven all but myself to the outdoors. I've unceremoniously acquired seasonal allergies with the quickness normally reserved for acquiring the latest Marc Jacobs. Graced with a massive headache, I soothed my broken soul with a proper dinner of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

And then there was a regrettably Carrie Bradshaw-like thought: Are bowls really necessary for the single, metropolitan girl? Or dinner plates? Or tablespoons?

I'm not sure if it's a habit from the days of dorm living, or because my dishwasher can't accomodate most bowls, but I eat all liquid-based foods from a teacup (soup) or mug (cereal). It's not very glamorous at all, but its an eccentric habit that I'm not sure I'd like to give up. Mugs and teacups allow for instant portion control (really, how much tomato soup does one single person need to ingest), solves the etiquette problem of slurping and seems to be much tidier than eating from a bowl. If you subscribe to the teacup-is-better philosophy, then you also have eliminated the need for tablespoons, which are rather clumsy anyway and are the main reasons for slurping.

I also am enamored with using salad, or dessert plates as dinner plates. If you can't cook, this makes a little bit of good food seem plentiful, and gives you an automatic excuse for not having a full-course dinner party, automatically resulting in a stress-free occasion.

Most kitchen-in-a-box sets favor dinner plates and tablespoons over their more graceful and practical cousins. If you're planning to move in to a new place, or are trying to simplify your life, do yourself a favor and break from the Big Dinnerware reflex. The Gnome Mugs from Sur La Table (The Promenade at Sagemore, Marlton) are a bit pricey, but stylishly stand up to daily wear-and-tear. They're worth the price alone for the whimsical names (a gnome named Lucien!) and will enhance your mornings greatly. The coordinating salad-sized Gnome plates are so charming that guests will forget that "jerk chicken" you're serving is supposed to be merely "roasted." Glass mugs, also from Sur La Table, are the best choice for keeping cold items cold and hot items hot, much longer than standard porcelain, stoneware or plastic. A fancier option is the Midnight Magic Daylily cup and saucer from Manor Home (210 S. 17th St.).

Of course, there is the lingering problem of flatware. I've searched high and low for non-silver everyday stuff in the area that doesn't come in a standard 5-piece place-setting. If you want to permanently solve the problem of having excessive tablespoons and salad forks, your option is to buy some fancy-pants silverware. Having silverware, while high-maintenance, is enormously life-enhancing. Besides, there's that old rule that if you spend a great deal of money, you are no longer 'nuts' but 'lovably eccentric.' Head over to Tiffany's (1414 Walnut St.), and revel in the overdone splendor of the English King silverware, or the more Casual Friday Bamboo set. While you're there, pick up some Monkey straws to keep chocolate milk from staining your tablecloth.