Why Every China Collection Could Use At Least One Oyster Plate
Among the many coveted dishes of the South, oyster on the half shell stands out for its simplicity and popularity on menus in coastal towns. There's nothing quite like the salty, lemony taste of a fresh oyster paired with the boozy goodness of a bloody mary to start your weekend on the coast – or so I've been told; I have yet to acquire the taste for either of those delicacies.
Despite my lack of affection toward oyster on the half shell, I recently found out that there is a plate specifically made to serve oysters and might I say they are some of the prettiest china I've ever seen.
Although I don't currently plan on serving oysters at any of my future dinner parties, you can bet that I ended up down the rabbit hole of antique oyster plates for sale, once I was aware of this highly fashionable and functional dish.
The oyster plate made its debut during the Victorian era, when oysters on the half shell first became a popular dish. The porcelain design eventually made its way to the U.S. in the late 1800s and was produced by Union Porcelain Works in New York, among other European and American factories, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Beside the spectacle of using these decorative plates, they were also an effective way to serve oysters without the shell. Serving on oyster plates ensured that fine china plates wouldn't be scratched by the heavy shells and kept the oyster itself from sliding around on a dish. Consider the oyster plate the deviled egg tray of the Victorian era.
There are three main shapes of oyster plates: turkey, geometric, and kidney. Turkey and kidney plates have five oyster wells and vaguely look like the shape that their names suggest. Geometric plates have six oyster wells arranged in a circle with a smaller well for dipping sauce or lemon slices in the center.
If you still need convincing to add another serving dish to your china collection, oyster plates can easily be found in antique stores or online. And no need to worry about disrupting your china collection's uniformity because you can find oyster plates in practically any variation of color and pattern that you can imagine.
If you decide to add an oyster plate to your collection – or gift one to the hostess of your family – be sure to look for plates that have no chipping or hair-line cracks. Highly collectible plate designs from certain porcelain factories can run for as much as $500.
For the ultimate adventure, you can take a road trip to enjoy some delicious Eastern Shore oysters in Kilmarnock, Virginia, and stop by the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery, which features a booth from "The Oyster Plate Lady," who is the largest seller of oyster plates in the country, according to the Gallery's site. If an antiquing road trip isn't quite your style, you can also shop for antique oyster plates on Etsy. Here are a few options below so you can see what all the fuss is about.
Once you've found the oyster plate of your dreams, consider it an excuse to host your next oysters on the half shell dinner party!