Noritake plates

Noritake plate
Noritake plate

A set of plates in my kitchen cabinet have survived generations of proudly inept chefs in my family. They were made by Noritake, a Japanese company whose tableware was popular in western export markets in the early 20th century. My great-grandparents probably bought them after immigrating to New York from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I remember them from my grandmother’s house in New Jersey, where they served courses of burnt meatballs, dry turkey, and, on one infamous occasion, chicken recently dropped on the floor. It was always some type of meat, since the vibrant floral pattern distinguished these dishes from the less ornate dairy plates in my grandmother’s kosher household. Culinary mishaps provided reliable comic relief at holiday dinners and were even a source of pride for my grandmother. Her interests lay outside the kitchen, and she rejected any attempt to cast her as a postwar suburban housewife. She graduated from college, worked in a university admissions office, and eventually earned a Masters degree in counseling. My mom was similarly uninterested in cooking, preferring sports and art before pursuing a career in medicine. Although my family did not pass down a strong culinary tradition, I did inherit these plates. They make me think about the historical forces that brought Japanese dishes to a kosher household in New Jersey. They remind me that setting off a smoke alarm can be an accident and an act of defiance. And they help me remember my grandmother.

Place(s): New York, New Jersey, Poland, Japan
Year: 1910

– Andrew Tharler

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more