Using the good stuff
I simply refuse to be defeated by sterling silverware. But so far the tally is flatware 3, Inga 0.
We recently inherited a set of beautiful sterling flatware from a great aunt of Olof’s and since we had long since begun using my mother’s bone china on a daily basis, we decided to jettison the stainless and upgrade ourselves to daily sterling as well. As the L’Oreal commercial says, we’re worth it.
Using the bone china has turned out to be a fabulous idea with only one minor problem: it has flowers. Olof is not a flower man. In fact, I think it may have been part of our wedding vows. (“I,Inga, promise not to subject Olof to a single flower motif on furnishings, bedding, wall coverings, throw pillows, bath tile, or visible domestic surfaces so long as we both shall live.”)
But as I pointed out to Olof, the flower pattern is usually covered by food. Now that we’ve been using it awhile, I’ve noticed the twitching has stopped.
But the sterling thing has turned out to be a whole different ballgame. My much-missed long-deceased mother had beautiful sterling flatware, an exquisite set of Limoges (in addition to the wedding china that I now have), and lovely Baccarat crystal, all of which is in the possession of our younger-than-any-of-us stepmother, Fang, along with our now-deceased father’s estate. At least weekly I pray that the Limoges is leaching lead.
But maybe Fang did me a favor stealing the sterling. Once Olof’s great-aunt’s flatware came into our lives, I quickly discovered how truly high maintenance it is. If you look on the Internet regarding care of sterling flatware, you will conclude, as I did, that 99 percent of it lives a perpetually shunned life in its wooden storage coffin, ultimately to be inflicted on another hapless generation. Sterling flatware is the ultimate white elephant. Actually, the elephant would be less work.
Now there are a few champions out there who do encourage you to use sterling every day. Life is short, they exhort! Use the good stuff! It’s not that hard if you follow a few (dozen) simple rules!
Using sterling daily, for example, has the alleged benefit that you don’t have to polish it as often. In my case I hope this means never.
The biggest downside I’ve found with sterling flatware is that you can’t use it on actual food. Among the comestibles that damage sterling silver are vinegar, acidic fruit juices, eggs, mayo, salad dressings, spaghetti sauces, table salt, olives, and pickles. We have enough trouble with our primary care doctor axing the high glycemic carbs without having to eliminate whole other classifications of food based on the preferences of our flatware.
There is a huge debate as to whether you can put sterling flatware in your dishwasher; most sites recommend you hand wash and dry it. If I have to hand wash all my silverware, the score would be flatware 50, Inga -10. (The bone china has made the adjustment to Cascade.) My feeling is that everybody has to give a little here, including (and especially) the flatware.
For example, I quickly concluded that if you’re going to use sterling silver daily, life is too short to heed the recommendation that one count all the pieces after every use. Spoon accidentally lost in the trash? Sayonara, baby!
Even the dishwasher advocates concede that you can’t let the sterling stuff touch stainless stuff in the silverware basket. Something about electrolytic reactions, ions, pitting — bad scientific-y things.
So against my better judgment, my silverware caddy now has its own DMZ with a strict non-fraternization policy on either side. How long this will actually last has already been a subject of wagers in our household.
But even that’s not enough. Absolutely no lemon-scented or “citrus additives” in your dishwasher soap. It is also important to rinse sterling silverware immediately after exposure to food, preferably while still in the diner’s hands. Letting it sit on dinner plates on the kitchen counter while you watch “Dancing with the Stars” is inviting disaster. It just goes against everything I believe in (never mind a lifetime of marginal housekeeping skills) to have my life controlled by silverware. But as much as I try to ignore it, I hear it calling out to me: “Yoo hoo, Inga, we’re tarnishing out here!”
Waayyy too many sites advise that should you fail to comply with the Sterling Silver Playbook that you will have to “take the ware for repairs to a professional silversmith.” There is nothing about the term “professional silversmith” that sounds life-enhancing to me.
The bottom line, of course, is what sterling flatware really requires is … servants. The Downton Abbey cast seemed to have no dearth of lackeys polishing the stuff on a regular basis. But I am determined to use my nice things, including my new sterling, and nobody is going to stop me! Even if it all looks like hell in six months.
As for glassware, I’m afraid it’s strictly Crate & Barrel. Because I don’t think Fang is leaving me the Baccarat in her will. It probably couldn’t go in the dishwasher anyway.
— Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life in La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org