Posted by: jsmcfadden | December 26, 2010

Surprises, continued

There are complete surprises, and then there are sorta surprises. Sorta surprises are when a person is surprised and delighted, and then remembers mentioning — or going on and on about it — the item that caused the sorta surprise.

A gravy ladle was a sorta surprise. But it caused great delight, nonetheless.

Here it is, and then I’ll tell you about it:Facts first: it’s Allure, International Silverplate, 1939. On the back there’s a stamped “Wm Rogers” and then “IS” in a box. It’s not the first piece of this pattern that I have. The butter knives were the first:

 Not counting the Master Butter Knife at the top, though. The six sweet butter spreaders were the first of this pattern that I was given. I think. John’s memory is better than mine about these kinds of things. I think I already had the large serving spoon and meat fork and then he found these butter spreaders and got them for me.

This was years ago, and I couldn’t really say why this pattern appealed to me so much. Partly, I’m sure it was because it was from 1939, a great year for American culture. Don’t even have to begin with The Grapes of Wrath to impress serious students of American culture, do I? Perhaps you’d rather I began with films. OK, how about The Wizard of Oz? Gone with the Wind? Stagecoach? Wuthering Heights! Goodbye Mr. Chips!  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington! This was a great year for movies, no question. But not just movies: The Day of the Locust, if you want to go back to written literature, was also 1939. Julia Morgan finished work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon in 1939. The American Theater Wing was established that year, and the Federal Theater Project was well underway also. The Philadelphia Story played on Broadway in 1939. Billie Holiday’s recording of “Strange Fruit” — 1939! And, according to, “Nat “King” Cole arrives at the idea of a trio consisting of piano, guitar and bass in which all players share a prominent role.”

So, 1939 was a good year in American culture.  An odd thing, for the Great Depression was still hanging on, though unemployment was DOWN to just 17%.

But I digress.

The pattern is simple, the feel of the utensil in the hand is slim, light, elegant. The silverplate is old enough to be warm in its burnish and not icy.

So, anyway. I had told John that I’d like to have more serving pieces of that pattern, and he got right on the case, investigating what could be had. He found a whole service, but that didn’t appeal to me — where would I put it? was the first obstacle.

On Christmas morning, I opened packages that didn’t look at all as if they held serving pieces. Opening up the large square box that held the ladle — wrapped up inside a bath towel so it wouldn’t rattle — was the most fun. The ladle is precious; it’s weighted just right, the bowl is nice and round, and the angle of the curve at the top is just perfect, too.

Here are all the serving pieces I have now:

The meat fork and broad spoon on the top are the first pieces, and then the second broad spoon, the three serving spoons, the ladle, and the sugar spoon underneath were all this year’s Christmas gifts from John.

Our Christmas table looked beautiful, an important aspect of making the holiday truly festive. And while I was cooking, I didn’t need to wonder if I would have enough spoons for the table — I could use whatever spoon I needed to stir or mix ingredients. Yay!


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