Flatware is sending Mr. Henry round in circles.
For longer than he cares to say, he has been promising to buy Mrs. Henry a proper set of knives, forks, and spoons in everyday stainless steel, a set that balances nicely in the hand, lies beautifully on the table, and washes easily in the dishwasher. When Mr. Henry and his peerless consort decided to bind themselves contractually, they included on their wedding registry a classic stainless pattern from Christofle, the best of the best.
Because the marriage loot did not yield all the plates and bowls from their china pattern, however, the fledgling Henry couple elected to exchange their Christofle for the missing china.
He promised to buy that stainless just as soon as they got on their feet.
Time passed. Water ran under the bridge. Financial cycles ebbed and flowed. The tide in Mr. Henry’s affairs was not taken at the flood. Although the voyage of his life is not bound in shallows or in miseries, ready access to the price of a Christofle service for 12 remains elusive.
Little by little the Henry’s everyday china has grown in sophistication. From Sara on Lexington Avenue came plates in tenmoku black glaze.
Sara glassware too includes some beautiful handblown examples. Old Edo style dinner napkins get softer with each washing.
But the Henry flatware drawer holds only odd bins, a hodgepodge of shapes and styles, their origins expunged from memory.
Each year sometime between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, those twin perils of romance, Mr. Henry wanders into Pottery Barn. He picks up a knife or fork to see whether something better than Christofle has arrived.
So far, he remains convinced that Christofle Albi II stainless (glossy) is the best. Its simple lines resist useless adornment. (Glossy is harder and more resistant to wear than satin. Under daily dishwasher use, the satin finish scratches and dulls.)
Its weight and balance in hand are persuasive. Other stainless flatware either feels flimsy, the handles too light and too thin, or feels over-designed, the handles imprinting decorative rills on your thumb pad.
Modern design is interesting and occasionally amusing but in the end seems like an unnecessary distraction. Fork tongs do not need to be redesigned every generation. Like printer’s fonts, classic ones serve very well, thank you.
Flatware should serve. (It’s called a service, after all.) Like a picture frame or sculpture pedestal, flatware should play a supportive role. It should not command more attention than the food it conveys. Nevertheless, when you dedicate real skill to a meal, you should eat with tools commensurate to your effort. You owe that much to yourself. After painstakingly planning, shopping, preparing, and serving the meal, is it appropriate to let the food’s final few inches of transport be less than elegant?
In this updated version of a classic design, the Albi II tablespoon is slightly smaller than the Mimosa, the standard of years past. This is an improvement. The traditional French tablespoon is surprisingly big. The standard teaspoon (pictured), on the other hand, always seemed too small for practical use. He opted out of buying the teaspoon altogether and in its place chose the dessert spoon, halfway in size between teaspoon and tablespoon.
In sum, Mr. Henry decided that his essential five piece setting shall comprise the dinner fork, dinner knife, table/soup spoon, dessert spoon, and salad fork. (Perhaps the addition of two serving spoons might make the setting more fulfilling.)
How to pay for this shiny treasure? On Mother’s Day he phoned his own sainted mother to wish her the very best. The conversation soon turned direction.
“Oh, Mom, do you remember when I said I didn’t want anything for my birthday? Well, I found just the thing.”