How Many Dishes Do I Need?

List of dishes
Source: Housewifery by L. Ray Balderston (1919)

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?

    1. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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. 🙂

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