It was drilled into me from infancy that you only wear your nicest clothes on Sunday, and as soon as you get home from church you take them off and hang them up neatly, so they remain your nicest clothes. I absorbed the training thoroughly; I take really good care of my clothes, and they last me years if not decades.
But the training to save things for special was not limited to clothes. Other things were way too special to use every day. You didn't use the good silver to eat spaghetti on Tuesday, for instance--solid sterling was just for Sunday. The china, however, wasn't even just for Sunday--it was just for company or holidays.
Saving-for-special should even extended to perishable items, I was taught. Really expensive European cocoa, for instance, had to be saved, for years if necessary, until an appropriate occasion to cook with it came along. No matter that after so many years at the back of the cupboard being special it had passed from specialness to inferiority of flavor and texture; at least it hadn't been wasted and diluted through consumption on some frivolous occasion.
It occurs to me that my parents would have made fabulous connoisseurs of expensive booze. My dad would have been happy to buy a bottle of twelve-year-old Scotch and keep it another twelve before opening it. My mother would have had a goodly supply of good champagne put away for christenings, weddings and other bubbly-appropriate events.
Instead, because they were Mormon and didn't drink, they laid away and kept for years vast supplies of regular old comestibles. There may be foodstuffs out there besides booze that improve with a decade or two of age, but none spring to mind right now. I can certainly appreciate well-aged cheese, but a five-year-old gouda is considered pretty damn old. Some things will keep indefinitely, if properly stored--unground wheat, for instance, can keep for centuries--and those "best by" dates on cans and so forth might not require strict observance, but eventually things will go bad, and there's no use pretending otherwise. I can tell you from firsthand experience, for instance, that a can of Vienna sausages left for twelve years in a pantry because no one wants to eat them will, eventually, start to corrode and smell really, really bad.
Anyway. The point is, I recognize both the virtues and limitations of this "saving things for special" business. My nice things stay nice, because I take care of them. But sometimes my nice things, although still nice, become unusable, at least in the case of clothes, because I save them until they're out of style or no longer fit me properly.
And while I'm much better than my parents about consuming luxury food before it spoils, I'm still not perfect.
For instance, in November 2005, when Matt and I were in Paris, we came across this French Christmas tea set in a cute little kitchen-stuff shop. There was a small canister of The de Noel (aka "Christmas Tea")
and an itty bitty jar of totally yummy jelly made from said Christmas tea, and one of those stacking teapot/teacup thingies.
Now, I consumed the jelly right away, because the jar really was TINY--a few pieces of toast was all it took to polish it off. But the tea itself--well, I like tea, but I prefer coffee, so I don't drink that much tea to begin with. And I really like the canister and like setting it on a shelf in my kitchen where I can actually look at it, and so, somehow, partly because I've been saving it for special and partly just because, I still haven't used it up, even though I've had it for coming up on four years now.
So I just brewed a cup. It has probably lost some flavor and intensity, but it still tastes pretty damn good. And by saving it this long, I now get to feel both luxurious AND virtuous when I drink it, and that's kind of cool.