Everyone has a different definition of “basic tableware” but unless you’re planning to host the royal family on a yacht, you probably don’t need endless rows of specialised implements for things like snails and champagne truffles. Chances are, if you grew up with a good old plate, knife and fork – and a big spoon for dessert, obvs – that’s how you’ll run your own home. Every couple finds their own “best way”, so see what works for both of you, and what you want to teach your kids. We like to keep it simple, but you’ll almost always find co-ordinated extras that can be added to these sets for when the in-laws visit!
Crockery The basics:
Dinner plate, side plate, bowl. That’s it!
Some sets include mugs, some don’t – check so you know what you’re getting.
Get a few extra mugs anyway… that’s the one thing everyone runs out of!
Some sets include cereal bowls and pasta bowls – cereal bowls are deeper and have a smaller circumference, while pasta bowls are wider and shallower, sometimes with a bit of an edge around it. The greater surface area assists with (ahem) equal distribution of pasta sauce, plus greater surface area = extra cheese sprinklage = win!
What to get
It’s really nice to have an everyday set of dishes, and a set of “good crockery” that you bring out for holidays and special occasions. A gift registry is an excellent way to get this, of course…
Your everyday crockery should be cost effective, hardwearing, and dishwasher safe, but you’re going to use it every day so it should also be something you both really love! This is the set that sees the most bumps and clatters. If your microwave and dishwasher handed out frequent flyer miles, these babies would get into business class every time!
Stoneware is popular because it’s sturdy and doesn't absorb moisture. It behaves well in the microwave and doesn't crack with quick changes of temperature.
Porcelain is also strong and durable. It can lose a bit of shine or get a few metal markings from the dishwasher over time, but we reckon that gives it personality. It’s easy and cost-effective to replace though, so you can update any pieces that look worse for wear.
The Good Set
This is a gift that lasts a lifetime, and it’s often the one chosen by a really close friend or family member who wants to help build memories and be part of the special moments in your life. Taking out a gorgeous set of fine bone china or dolomite feels amazing. It turns a meal into a celebration, and if you’ve watched any cooking shows lately, you’ll understand the power of beautiful presentation. Choose a classic design because you’ll be keeping this set long after styles have changed – and maybe even handing it down to your kids to treasure!
Most sets are packed for 4 or 6 place settings, but the number of items you need really depends on your lifestyle and how much entertaining you plan to do. If you have a herd of friends around for a braai every weekend, it’s not a bad idea to get a dozen of everything – and maybe a plastic outdoor set if you think that’s safer!
The basics: knife, fork, dessert spoon, teaspoon
Extras: butter knife*, fish knife & fish fork**, soup spoon***
*Smaller than the main knife.
**A fish fork sometimes has small notches on the sides, or is just smaller than the standard fork. A fish knife isn’t supposed to be sharp – the idea is to delicately separate bits of food. Probably doesn’t taste any different if you use a normal knife though… #justsaying
***Slightly smaller than the dessert spoon, and rounder. A lot of restaurants use the same size spoons for soup and dessert these days though.
Just like crockery, it’s great to have everyday cutlery and a separate, special set. Our great grandparents would have insisted on real silver, but that’s not exactly practical these days! A hanging set is fab for everyday use, and there are some awesome designs that look great indoors and outdoors. For special occasions, choose something solid and elegant that lasts, and that you’ll enjoy using every time you set a special table.
What else does your table need? How about some of these…
• Table runner
• Napkin rings
• Serving dishes – always good to have a few of these!
• Serving spoons
• Salad server
• Salad bowls
• Salt and pepper cellars
• Gravy boat
• Dessert bowls
• Medium-sized jug for cream, custard, etc.
These extras really depend on you and your other half – let your life guide you! Do you enjoy formal entertaining with real napkins and crisp white tablecloths, or do you prefer a chilled get-together on the patio? Choose similar accessories in different colours and designs for extra style options, and spend some time thinking about how it’ll all look when you put it together for the best effect.