Cracking the crockery

Cracking the crockery
By Margot Edwards © 1994

I’ve been thinking about breaking a plate.

A particular plate I’ve had in mind. A plate with a picture of history, a picture of the great ship Endeavour, sails aloft in triumphant discovery. A celebratory plate.

My memories of this particular masterpiece of historical crockery were tied into chasing peas around the emblems of the States, so ordered, so neatly arranged around that rim in black and white.

Memories of the dinner table, siblings systematically serving up heated discussion about the politics of chess, the Beatles and split infinitives. Our plates piled high with history learned and Latin derivatives. Great believers in the power of the written word and the full stomach. Home cooked meals, familiarity and the emblems of the States of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Somewhere along the line I figured something was missing. That I only had part of the picture. And that I was somehow to blame. Like the truth was veiled beneath the smell of roast lamb and mint sauce. That the wafting aroma spilling over our plates to fill the yellow-bright kitchen may have blunted our sharpening senses into easy submission.

No questions asked, no need for explanations. Just serve it up in piled spoonfuls and our hungry minds would devour it.


I left that childhood and that smell in Sydney. I also left the plate.

Left the waratah, and followed the emblem of the swan, around the lower rim to discover an oasis, to arrive in triumph. To celebrate.

Mingling with the smell of a new sea, with no history of my own, I treated my senses to wafting truths newly found; a new digestible history to serve up in spoonfuls to the next hungry generations; a new perspective.

I still felt something was missing. It must have been the plate. So I went back and got it. Scrabbled through cupboards of long-forgotten memories to claim the piece of my past, a piece of my birthright to a version of mealtime.

Thinking not once, not twice, that the journey to another kitchen, another family, had seen timely tales served up on blue grass platters, and in them, a whisper of other truths.

How tantalising the taste of that yellow-bright time. With what anticipation I pulled that plate from its packaging.

How bland and one dimensional it looked upon my kitchen table. I did not see the emblems of the States. I did not see my tortured peas.

I saw a picture, a version of history, unveiled in black and white. I saw spirits of dead ancestors. I saw welcoming arms. I saw celebration. I saw disintegration. I heard stories unfold. I heard histories untold.

As I put it on the shelf, I felt my coloured bowls and vessels shrink away in the stark contrast. And I wanted to break the plate. I decided instead to eat my dinner off it.


Pushing the last of my nachos around the rim, I ponder my childhood memory. I’ve recreated the yellow-bright kitchen on the other side of the continent but red chilli now bites my tongue.

I won’t break the plate. Instead it sits and waits, like an enigma, for a child’s eye to chase and trace the pattern of peas past sailing ships to dreams of unknown states.

The plate sits, a part of a pattern, a survivor in a sea of truths.

We adults cook the dinner now and my plate of choice is different. Plain in the centre; the rim a mass of swirling coloured lines; drawing to mind a complex cast of characters, each spinning their own version of the moment. Each as valid as the next, our histories and our crockery intermingle.


Yesterday I was at a friend’s place and smelt their roast lamb cooking. Somehow the smell did not smell the same. But it was still roast lamb.

Tomorrow I’ll eat my dinner off a different plate.

Perhaps one day I’ll have a dinner set.

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