A Room with a View....Platter View, that is…

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Since I was a little girl I wanted to throw dinner parties with pretty plates and platters of food.  I was in my 30’s before I started collecting unique bowls and serving dishes to use in my cooking classes and small dinner parties.  My mother gave me some beautiful pieces as gifts at Christmas and birthdays, many which she had saved from her mother, or found on sale at her favorite department stores.

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It’s no secret that I collect bowls in every shape and size, and I’m sometimes given colorful bowls from friends. When I travel, one of my favorite things to collect is bowls and serving platters, especially ones that are handmade by people I meet.  I’ve carried many special pieces back from faraway places, and I try to remember the stories each one possesses. 

One of my first purchases from another country was a rosewood bowl from Costa Rica, which I’ve used dozens of times to serve salads and fruit.  The man who made the bowl was the owner of the shop, and he proudly polished it before wrapping it in paper for me to take to its new home.  Another favorite is a basket bowl I got in Rwanda, made by a woman named Habimana, which means “God exists”. She makes baskets in her home from grass and raffia, and sells them in the markets where tourists shop. 

In Florence, Italy I purchased some hand-painted bowls made by a husband and wife who have been making ceramic hand-painted bowls and tiles for fifty years.  A pottery platter with wooden stick handles made in Chile was a tedious thing to carry home since it weighed nearly 15 pounds.  I have wine barrel cheese boards from Napa, California, and glass trays made by my friend in Scottsdale, Arizona.  A few years ago, I bought a tiered bowl set made by Swedish artist Carrol Boyes at a gallery in SOHO, New York.  I’ve used it so many times for dips and sauces, and I simply adore her work.  I learned this week that she passed away suddenly, which makes my piece so much more special to me.

You can imagine that after years of collecting these bowls and platters, that I’d need a room to store and display them.  I had my friend Ron make some special oak cabinets where these special pieces live, waiting to be carried to a table full of delectable food.  When I need inspiration for a menu I often go into the “platter room” and look at my treasures, visualizing the food that could fill them.  My silversmithing tools are also in the platter room, so I can sit at my work table and glance at the platters as if they are misbehaving or playing Musical Chairs.  Every couple of months I rearrange the platters since they often are misplaced after parties and classes.  I try to keep the wooden pieces together and the metal pieces together, but sometimes I place a mismatched piece among them just to confuse everyone.

These platters and bowls have become my friends.  I get upset when they are chipped or stained, but I try to excuse it because I know that if they are being used for what they are created to do, they are always subject to damage. 

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Evan Wei-Haas