It's a different kind of china that will be in focus in Washington's social circles this week. The details about the first official banquet to be hosted by the Obamas' are so closely guarded that it has become a subject of intense speculation.
In fact, there are more leaks about Afghan troop deployments. The US First Lady's team has kept the dinner guest list, entertainment, flowers and china patterns completely under wraps.
So, what are the China patterns that the Michelle Obama has at her disposal? She will unveil them tomorrow to a select group of reporters. One would presume that the White House would have extremely ornate chinaware but, that is not the case.
Understated elegance is what typifies White House china, which is displayed in the many rooms of the presidential residence and reflects the style of Presidents gone by. Not of royalty and people to the manor born, but Presidents elected from backgrounds such as the log cabin (Abraham Lincoln) or the peanut farm (Jimmy Carter) or the Texan ranch (George W. Bush)
For 200 years, presidential families have picked and chosen the chinaware that reflected their styles. There are French porcelain oyster plates and bonbon stands of the Rutherford B. Hayes administration and cocktail cups and oatmeal bowls of the Woodrow Wilson era.
The First Lady, Michelle Obama, also has at her disposal two new sets of china that Laura Bush had purchased for the White House, one a traditional Lenox gilt-edged formal style with a green basket-weave border. The other, the Magnolia Residence China Service designed by Hungarian-born Anna Weatherley of Arlington.
It is unlikely she will use the latter, as it is more of an informal pattern to be used in the private quarters.
For banquets, US First Ladies usually pick a more formal pattern, if possible with gold/gilt edging to them, which may not have intricate patterns but are imposing nonetheless. The choice of china and flower setting are important indicators of what is the taste of the day and it is a recorded piece of history.
The White House collection of china is housed in the White House China Room. Not every administration created their own service, but portions of all china services created for the White House and some of the older china services are used for small dinners on the second floor.
While most Indians at the banquet on Tuesday will be concentrating on what is served on their plates, they probably will be unaware of the thought and planning that goes into the serving bowls and plates. The devil is in the details you see!