Dishing it Out

Instead of gathering dust, Brynn Foster makes use of her eclectic dinnerware at gatherings.

Brynn Foster inherited the entertaining bug from her mom. She remembers the excitement in the house prior to holidays when her mom started setting the table weeks in advance, planning where every dish would go and leaving notes on each, specifying foods destined for particular platters. She now brings that spirit of beauty and festivity into her own home, saying “My mom taught me to always use the best, the wedding china. Presentation is so important. You can have take-out food, put it on a beautiful plate and turn your meal and table into an experience.”

Doug Nordman for USAA Magazine

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It wasn’t just family tradition that helped shape Foster’s philosophy of incorporating casual luxury into her everyday life, shared with her husband Hugh and two children, Beckley, 9, and Elle Mahealani, 6.

“I’ve had to be evacuated four times in my life,” Foster says. “In Malibu, we had to worry about wild fires and earthquakes. Here, it’s tsunamis. The last time we left the house because of flood warnings, I imagined all the china floating away and I thought, ‘What a waste. I never used that Versace plate and now it’s going to be floating away in the water.'”

Luckily, that didn’t happen, but it was a wakeup call to start using her Versace, Raynaud and Limoges china and hand-blown glass stemware instead of keeping all of it tucked away in cabinets.

Looking at the beautiful design of a Versace or Raynaud pattern brings a smile to her face, but she’s not a collector for collecting’s sake. Every item she brings into her household is intended to be used.

It coincided with her desire, as a parent, to be more health and environmentally conscious. Her concern over processed foods led her to create her own corn-, dairy-, wheat- and gluten-free teething biscuits from taro. That became the foundation of the company she founded, Voyaging Foods, to provide mineral-rich artisan-milled taro flour, dry mixes and baked goods utilizing Hawaiian “canoe” plants such as kalo (taro), ‘uala (sweet potato) and ‘ulu (breadfruit).

“It was a personal challenge to make my own food for my babies.”

She didn’t stop there, setting another goal of conserving by getting rid of paper products and plastics in her home, which meant making use of more formal china, silverware and linens. But don’t interpret that as being chichi. More important than trying to impress people, she says, is sharing good food with good company and creating memories.

“I want people to feel comfortable, not intimidated,” she says. “I always thought of the table as being symbolic of a place where families can come together to talk about their day. Meals don’t have to be fussy or even take place at a table. We’ll throw picnics in our yard or sit on pillows on the floor of our living room. I value the time spent sitting down together.”

She’s a firm believer in the charm of high-low table settings, and thinks nothing of mixing and matching fine porcelain with mason jar cups, and picnic silverware from Pier 1 and Pottery Barn that she also packs with her children’s lunches.

“I send my kids to school with real stuff,” she says. “My goal is to avoid waste as much as possible. I don’t like the idea of eating off a paper plate and throwing it away 15 minutes later. When you use nice dinnerware, you tend to sit longer, slow down while eating and savor more.”

“I’ll also light candles, signifying it’s time to sit down, and when we’re eating, no electronics are allowed, no TV,” she says.

Research backs her observations, suggesting that dining together has positive effects on childhood development. The security and nurturing have a positive impact on children’s values, identity and self-esteem.

“The kids get it. They know. When they’re drinking out of glass wine goblets, they feel mealtime is so special.” As far as heirlooms go, the children have a head start should they decide to get their own “collections” going.

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