By: Jaymie Leighton (with a minor intrusion from her sister, Rebecca Leighton Burke, of RLB China Matching Service)
My town, Queensville, Michigan, is tied to the Canadian equivalent town (Johnsonville, Ontario) across the St. Clair River, by almost two hundred years of tradition. Heartbreak Island, in the middle of the river, was divided between our country and theirs after the War of 1812 by a rare agreement that came with no bloodshed and no acrimony. We've always had to get along with our neighbors. Then, on July first, 1867, when Canada celebrated its own coming of age by officially becoming a country, our town took on a new name in honor of Queen Victoria, just as their town took on their new name in honor of our President Andrew Johnson. And we’ve been celebrating together every since.
But in different ways. In the US, we do things big! The fourth of July is my favorite holiday. (Of course, when Thanksgiving comes, I’ll be saying that about it, and when Christmas comes… you get my drift.)
But I do love me some red, white and blue vintage kitchenwares and linens! Part of the fun of any occasion, for me, is planning ahead what food I’m going to serve, and what vintage dinnerware I’m going to serve it on. And on that topic, instead of buying up stars and stripes new stuff, why not celebrate with vintage buys? The key, to me, is to not interpret the red, white and blue patriotic color theme too literally. I pull out some of the red Christmas linens (as long as they don’t have poinsettias on them!) and pair them with white dishes and vintage cobalt blue drinking glasses.
Becca adds: My sister won’t say it, but you could go all out, if you’re having an ‘at home sit down meal’ for the Glorious Fourth. In that case, you could collect some of the gorgeous patriotic-themed dinnerware, like Pickard’s ‘Palace Royale Ivory - Eagle Crest’, which is white, with a royal blue and gold rim and a gold American eagle emblazoned on it, or Lenox’s ‘Independence’, which features, again, a blue and gold rim, but with stars etched in the gold. Gorgeous!
Jaymie continues: … but not cheap. If you want to go new and don’t have a boatload of money, how about rustic patriotic themed enamelware, or less expensive stoneware? Anyway, I am of the opinion that what you serve ON the plates is more important than the plates themselves. I do the décor stuff for myself, because trust me, people – especially men – won’t notice what the dishes look like.
Now, talking about food, and getting back to my initial talk about Canadian and American similarities and differences, I think when it comes to our national holidays, we have more of the former than the latter. In Johnsonville, on July First, the townspeople gather in Friendly Neighbour Park, along the river, picnic, and then have fireworks later. In Queensville, on July Fourth, almost everyone in town will gather by the river for the annual picnic in Boardwalk Park, and the sailboat race from Heartbreak Island down around Fawn Island and back again. Then dinner (usually fried chicken or barbecued ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, and red, white and blue cupcakes) and once the sun is down, fireworks set off from the marina on Heartbreak Island.