Summer is in full swing and outdoor parties abound. With those outdoor parties comes the possible breaking of plates and serving pieces. Party guests who are having lots of fun often aren’t as careful with our lovely tableware as we would hope. The easiest way to prevent the breakage is to use paper, but they are not all that attractive and there aren’t serving pieces made of paper products. Sure you can buy cheap plastic and get some use out of them, but as always, you get what you pay for and you aren’t doing the environment any good. Why add to the landfill with cheap plastic plates and cups? Enter melamine.
The answer to the need for stylish, durable outdoor (and indoor for that matter) dinnerware is melamine.
What is Melamine?
A detailed answer to what melamine is comprised of is complicated and would involve chemical discussions that I have no desire to attempt. Besides what we are after is not the chemical itself, but its resulting product – melamine resin.
You may have heard or read negative stories about melamine where animals and children were poisoned after eating food laced with melamine. Melamine is sometimes illegally added to food products in order to increase the apparent protein content. This has occurred in pet foods, animal feed and baby formulas, most of which has come from China.
However, melamine resin is different and not toxic in the finished product. Melamine resin actually contains formaldehyde among other elements, but again don’t be put off by these chemicals. When baked and set, these thermosetting plastics are completely safe and non-toxic.
How is that possible? When heat is applied to the final resin mixture, which can even contain refined wood-pulp, the elements which could cause harm in one state are changed. Think about chicken. If you were to eat raw chicken you would likely get sick, but if you cook the chicken to the proper internal temperatures, the “bad stuff” is killed off. It is the same chicken, but in a slightly altered state. The same principal applies here.
Another positive with melamine dinnerware is that it does not contain lead, BPA, PVC or phthalates.
Melamine dinnerware and serving pieces are dishwasher safe. If washing by hand, do not use abrasive brushes or scouring powders, as they will produce unrepairable scratches in the melamine surface.
SPECIAL NOTE – Melamine cannot be put in the microwave or oven. Why? Well, even though the material is safe for use with food, use in high heat appliances will cause it to absorb excessive heat and get hot enough to soften, blister, and crack. It is a matter of protecting the product not of food safety.
You need to look for shatter resistant melamine. The two most prominent makers of quality melamine dinnerware are Zak and Le Cadeaux. These two companies also account for most of the exclusive or “branded” dinnerware you may see at various retailers.
The “good stuff” has a solid hand-feel to it and in the best styles, have really stylish designs which would make any party a special experience.
My favorite melamine designs are those based on French Provencal or Italian Deruta ceramics which are produced by Le Cadeaux. Zak though has more fun and modern designs.
Sur La Table has a carried stylish melamine pieces over the years, typically in the Dertua style . They are not labeled as such but I assume they are made for them by Le Cadeaux.
Amazon has a greater selection of styles to choose from, but when is that not true? Not only does Amazon sell the Le Cadeaux in the Deruta style, but also styles from France and Spain.
I really like the melamine pieces for all manner of entertaining needs. In addition to the plates, platters and bowls, there are serving trays, spoons and forks.
You really can’t go wrong with melamine dinnerware for you outdoor entertaining.