Tableware

Now we’re starting to get to the good stuff!  Don’t worry, the food is coming, too! But first we have to have some plates to load up with all that great food! And we have to have tableware suitable for our minivan camper conversion!

The whole concept behind our camper is traveling fast and light. We have a lot of country to see, and we can’t do that by sitting in the campground all day! So for my meals, I’m usually satisfied with some of those nice heavy divider plates like Chinette makes, that can be tossed. The less time we have to spend doing dishes, the better we like it. And those flimsy paper plates just don’t stand up to a lot of weight when it comes to dumping food on them! I’ve seen a many a “mishap” occur when they suddenly fold over and dump the food on the ground… or worse yet, in someone’s lap!  No thanks! Give me some some good strong Chinette plates any day!

Another thing we really like, but I think you have to watch for them at some camper and RV stores are those long rectangular plastic divider plates that even have a place for a drink cup. They have more compartments, so you can really hold a lot of food on them, and that long rectangular shape makes them more stable, in case you have to carry them a ways. If you have to sit with your plate on your lap they work great because they’re long enough to to reach across both legs, and it’s next to impossible to spill them!

Now, if you really like them strong, then some kind of glass or ceramic plate is good, but unfortunately most of them don’t stand up to bouncing around. Yeah, you can put towels between them, but sooner or later, something is going to get broken, unless you choose the only kind that I approve for use with our minivan conversion, and that is Corelle dinnerware, made by Owens Corning.  They are both lightweight (for being glass), and nearly indestructible. Short of dropping them straight onto a concrete floor loaded with food, they’re pretty hard to break!  It “can” happen, but not very often!

The nice thing about Chinette paper plates or Corelle, they can also be used in the microwave, so they serve double duty. Many times, when we’re parked for awhile, we’ll fix a dish (like lasagna, for instance, or a casserole type dish) and cut it into squares that fit into those Tupperware “square-rounds”. One big square is usually enough for a meal, with some bread and salad, and we just put it on our plates and nuke it, and then add the salad and bread after it comes out!  That makes for a quick meal, whether we’re out and about and busy, or just too tired to cook when we get back to our campsite!  Fixing enough for extra meals is always a good idea, as long as you don’t keep it longer than what is safe!

And in case you’re wondering, we do have a 1500-watt inverter on our rig, so we actually can run the 700-watt microwave long enough to warm up a couple of meals while at a rest park if we need to. It really comes in handy.

And of course, you have to have something to store leftovers in to be able to do that, so you should always have a nice assortment of stackable storage containers with you. They need to be stackable to conserve storage space. And if they are also microwave proof, that’s even better. Then you can pull stuff straight out of the cooler and into the microwave, many times saving dirtying an extra dish.

And even though you can use plates to warm things up, they aren’t very good for preparing meals, so you always want to make sure you have enough dishes with you for microwave use. Make sure you actually try them with your microwave before dragging them along.  If they won’t fit, then it’s pointless to take them. If your microwave has a carrousel in it (most of them do today), you want to try to use it if you can.  If you have a square dish that won’t turn, it’s not “real” critical… you just may have to take the carrousel out and cook the dish slower to allow the heat to spread evenly. After all, many of the early microwaves didn’t have carrousels, and they still worked, didn’t they? Trust me… you can do it.

Oh, and be sure to add a measuring cup to your “cooking tools“. A Pyrex cup works great if you can keep if from getting broken, but even a plastic one is OK.

“Picnic sets” and “picnic baskets” are probably OK, as long as they are the soft-side type. A regular picnic basket in an RV takes up too much space for storage. Many times they are case of “overkill” for just a couple. We keep no more than a place setting for four people in the “hard” tableware. If you use paper plates, and plastic silverware, you’ll have more, but that’s OK. In glass we only keep four plates, four bowls, four glasses and four mugs. If you invite another couple over to play cards or something, that’s usually enough. But if you travel with kids… well, do what you have to!

By the way, we don’t carry glass “glasses”. They get broken too easy in traveling. All of ours are plastic. And we keep four cheap ceramic mugs for our morning coffee and hot drinks. Stoneware works well, as it doesn’t break as easy as other types, but use your own judgement.

OK, let’s eat!