More than just a fetish for feta

By Laurel Stowell

Collecting is a fetish and a disease and for a while Pam Noyes "ate, slept and breathed" cheese dishes.

It started with a long-forgotten cheese dish she found in a cupboard at Braemar Private Hospital when she worked there in the 1980s.

"Nobody wanted it, so I brought it home," she said.

"Then I got another one, and all hell broke loose."

Cheese dishes have a flat surface to put the cheese on, and a lid to cover it. The lid has a hole in it for ventilation and a handle. The dishes were made for the days before refrigerators, when people kept perishable food in a safe.

Mrs Noyes likes to imagine them on large and well-provided Victorian tables, holding whole Stiltons or big wedges of cheddar. One of the dishes in her collection still has a strong smell of cheese, from oil that has leaked into cracks in its glaze.

She has large dishes and small, plain and ornate, metal and china.

They are beautifully displayed on purpose-built shelves on either side of the wide hall of Crellow House. The house is open for bed and breakfast guests in the summer. It's on Wanganui's Taupo Quay and its two high gables and ornate style echo that of Oneida, the house built for the Burnett family in Fordell in 1870.

It's a great setting for the cheese dishes, and she has allowed church groups to tour them.

"They would always say 'I used to have one of those'."

The dishes gave her a lot of pleasure while she was collecting them. She stopped adding to the collection after running out of space in the mid 1990s. Now she can only admire and look after her cherished possessions.

"They get washed once a year, and dusted when I'm in the mood," Mrs Noyes said.

Her favourites are those given to her by her late husband, Mick, and the ornate Victorian ones.

Her daughter, who lives in Perth, has said she wants the collection when her mother is gone. Mrs Noyes doesn't know how she will move it across, first the Tasman, and then the Australian continent.

"That's her problem. Nothing to do with me."

Her husband was "a very tolerant man" who gave her cheese dishes for birthdays and Christmases during the years when she was collecting.

She also scoured antique shops for them, and the most she had paid was $300. And she looked for them on her travels.

"We went down to the South Island and toured around and we came back literally with a car full of cheese dishes. They were cheaper down there and there were a lot of them. That was a great trip."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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