I used think that I have too many dishes, but then I can across a list in a 1919 book, and realized (at least by the standards of a hundred years ago), that I may not own enough dishes.
With regard to table equipment, the number of individual dishes is controlled by the size of the family, and the kind of service desired. Most housewives would choose dainty service and good style, and would prefer to have convenient dishes in adequate number and appropriate silver, even if less expensive china , and silver and glass is chosen. For such a standard, which is strongly recommended, buy twice as many of all individual dishes, glasses, and silver, as the number in the family. This makes possible entertaining with much less worry and work, and relieves one of the feeling of not having enough. It is certainly a reasonable standard to choose china, glass, and silver which is not expensive to replace and is, therefore, not a source of anxiety to the housewife.
Source: Housewifery by L. Ray Balderston (1919)
50 thoughts on “How Many Dishes Do I Need?”
I think that list might be up to Downton Abbey standards. The minute I get a butler and a few footmen I’ll be all over a list like that. In the meantime, what on earth is an oatmeal dish?
I *think* the oatmeal dish also was called a deep bowl. The standard measurements were 5″ across and 2-1/2″ deep, which makes them perfect for oatmeal (or soup). I love them, and have a set of 1930s Homer Laughlin china that I picked up. They’re quite hard to find now, but they certainly are useful.
This helps – they are a nice size.
hmm . . . A butler and a few footmen might be nice. 🙂
I have many extraneous pieces to my china – never used. Can see how it happened in the days of Downton Abbey when others laid the pieces to table and washed up. But today, even with a dishwas,her, the waste of time is too evident.
I picture dish washing almost being a social event a hundred years ago, so maybe people didn’t mind washing lots of dishes.
I’m warm to the idea, but 70 years ago, we kids would keep keen tabs on whose job wiping dry was, as in, not me.
Back in the day, one registered for both china (service for at least eight) and everyday dinnerware. I love old china and dinnerware of all sorts. On a house tour in Lancaster County, PA, about ten years ago, we visited the home of a collector who had an actual small room full of antique china—many different patterns, displayed everywhere. I am not a collector but, had I the resources, the space, and someone else to do the periodic washing, that’s a hobby I could seriously enjoy.
I love to look at old china in shops that sell vintage goods, but I don’t have extra space to store it, so don’t actually buy much.
Well, speaking as a china collector, the right answer to “how many dishes do I need?” is “as many as I can find, afford, and store.” Unfortunately (or fortunately) I’m out of the collecting business, and no longer buy and sell, and I’m dispersing anything I don’t just have to keep. Of course, I “have” to keep a lot. I keep toying with writing about how I became a collector. One of these days I’ll do it.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you decide to write about how you became a collector. It would be fun to read.
Well, isn’t this interesting? That sure is a lot of dishes. I guess this explains the need for China Cabinets.
I had similar thoughts. Owning lots of dishes requires a place to store them.
And under the bed in cases.
How true- We often end up storing dishes wherever there is a little bit of space.
What a coincidence I love crafting and nonsense too!!
It’s good to know I partners in crime..
I made the mistake of choosing gold rimmed china that cannot be cleaned in the dishwasher. I also have a Depression set and then an all white everyday tough cheap set. The latter is the set of choice while the other two languish.
I have my grandparent’s gold-rimmed china, but I never use it. I don’t think that my family would appreciate needing to wash it by hand at holiday gatherings.
As always, your blog is so interesting. Thanks.
It’s wonderful to hear that you enjoy this blog.
We have lots of dishes and silverware, but not in the styles or numbers listed on the guide. No oatmeal dishes or finger bowls here. However have I lived without them?
I actually own a few finger bowls that once were in my parents’ china cupboard.
Well, having run an inn for 18 years, I actually have more than this! However, I have never purchased an “oatmeal bowl”!
What. . . no oatmeal bowls? 🙂
I know, it is shame on me! I have some silly finger bowls though, perhaps they can do dual duty?
Works for me. 🙂
Goodness. I don’t begin to measure up. And as it is, we’ve been downsizing our collection, feeling we have too much.
Maybe this list was “aspriational.”
Finger bowls! Do they still sell such a thing?!
I’m guessing that you can’t get finger bowls as part of new sets these days, but don’t really know for sure.
haha, I don’t know either! But I kind of doubt it. I’ve been on that replacements site and haven’t noticed them being part of newer sets!
We have lots of silver which we hardly ever use and plenty of dishes of all sorts. It’s the easy-care set that gets used the most.
Yes, I’m also much more likely to use dishes and silver out of easy care sets.
When my daughter got married, she asked for just 4 of every piece. I pointed out that if her family visited, there would not be enough plates or silverware. After thinking about it, I have 3 different sets of dishes. I had to replenish my silverware at one point, as it kept disappearing…kinda like socks.
I also worry that I’ll break one or two plates, so tend to buy a couple more pieces than I think I’ll actually need.
I inherited many pieces whose use was a mystery to me. Just recently I learned about the cream soup bowl and how to use it.
Until I read your comment, I wasn’t familiar with cream soup bowls, so had to google them. There are some really pretty ones.
I posted a picture on a post and got an answer from a reader. Pretty unique dish.
Wow! According to that list, I don’t have enough dishes either!
People must have had large gatherings a hundred years ago. I picture lots of people squeezed into a dining room with all the leaves in a table, and lots of dishes on the table.
I’m feeling very deficient in all aspects, Sheryl. 😦 😦 But I may own 1 sherbet glass …
You own one more than me. 🙂
Mismatched cutlery – it doesn’t seem to matter how many sets you buy, spoons and forks go missing. Knives – not so much.
Somehow they just seem to wonder off – taken to picnics and potlucks (and never to be seen again), put in packed lunches and then somehow tossed or lost, etc.
I’ve not enough room for day to day stuff let alone entertaining. I wonder where they put it all? It would be lovely to have the space and money to entertain though!
My mother and grandmother had large china cupboards (buffets) filled with china and other “fancy” dishes. This was probably similar to how dishes were stored a hundred-years-ago.
Oh my, they even had names for their dishes like oatmeal bowls, pudding dish, sauce dish… guess I don’t know to much about fancy setting a table even though I have a nice china set for 18 people! I don’t use it as much as I used to as the family is getting too large to buy settings for them all.
Wow, I’m impressed the you a set for 18 people. I think that the set I have was originally a 12-place setting, but some of the plates have been broken over the years. I do think that I still have 12 saucers. Don’t think that I’ve ever broken a single one of them. 🙂