Corelle platesm with their distinctive borders, are a familiar sight in immigrant homes across North America. Food writer Sonia Rao looked into a why they seem to have a special place in first-generation pantries in a new essay for the Washington Post.
“If the brand name doesn’t ring a bell, the Butterfly Gold pattern, especially popular in the 1980s, just might,” Rao wrote. “The parents of my first-generation friends served dinner on these plates, bordered with alternating images of butterflies and flowers, when I had sleepovers at their homes.”
The plates were a sign of assimilation into a new country. https://t.co/q5sQG5Cxbl
— Post Food (@WaPoFood) July 17, 2018
It was the ubiquity of these plates that led Rao to start looking into how Corelle became a favorite brand for new Americans. She reports the company boasts that it is the largest dinnerware company in the country but that to many immigrants (both from South Asia and elsewhere) the plates came to symbolize something more.
“[If] I want to express my American assimilated identity, then I use very symbolic American brands to express that — I buy Tide, and I buy Coke and Nike,” business professor Carlos J. Torelli told the Washington Post. Corelle, Rao theorized, also ranked up there as recognizable brands for newcomers.
It probably also helped that the company rolled out its first products in 1970, right when the first wave of immigrants after the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act began arriving in the United States. The new plates had arrived just when new South Asian-American families were setting up their kitchens. Additionally, the durability of Corelle’s dishware is a big plus for anyone who enjoys nice things but does not have the budget to endlessly replace broken plates.
“Speaking from experience, these are the kind of plates you can accidentally bang on a granite countertop without breaking,” Rao observed.