In the late 20th-century plastic was fantastic. I can recall the excitement of my parents at the arrival of the new Formica kitchen table, with its swirly yellow pattern flecked with black (probably now selling on Brick Lane in London for a small fortune).
I was too young to attend, but the Tupperware parties of the Seventies advanced the march of plastic into our lives, and we can thank films such as Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party for popularising vol-au-vents and the ubiquitous unbreakable plates.
Formica and plastic screamed modernity and were ideal materials for storage and furniture but the crockery and cutlery of that time had only one virtue: it didn’t break when you dropped it. It did, however, come in a wonderful shade of (predominantly) orange, and it did leave a strange industrial after-taste on the palate. And then, almost overnight, the trend died and was replaced with all things natural, and we were subjected to decades of oak and pine.
It’s a very different story today: up and down the high street plastic is making a dramatic comeback. From salad servers to wine goblets, melamine has arrived in a multitude of colours and patterns. Wafer-thin and almost transluscent, this composite and synthetic polymer has been engineered to resemble fine china but with the durability of a house brick. So, with posh picnics in mind, here is our selection of the best melamine products on the market.
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