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A Possession Obsession: James Oseland

Editor-in-Chief of Saveur Magazine - James Oseland - is master on all things cuisine. Besides being a tastemaker with a magazine and television show, he’s also a man with an heirloom. His possession obsession - that to our delight is food related - is an Indochine plate produced in the 1800’s in Holland. Oseland sometimes serves food on it, but in general, like any possession obsession, believes it needs its beauty sleep. The plate is a perfect marriage of form and function, with a delectable story behind it…

Tell us how you came to own this precious object?

It was a gift from a friend in Indonesia - Tanya Alwi. I’ve known Tanya since 1982. She was a classmate at art school and invited me to stay one summer with her and her parents in Jakarta, and Indonesia quickly became my second home. It turns out that the plate is from a very limited series of china produced in the 1800's in Holland, that was named for the Banda Islands where Tanya’s family comes from. It was a precious thing for Tanya, and now it’s a precious thing for me.

How do you live with your heirloom?

You know, most of the time I store it away. Sometimes I’ll serve food on it. Sometimes, I’ll take it down from the cupboard and just admire it. It’s lived a very long life and I like to think it needs a lot of beauty sleep. It’s deserved all the sleep it wants. 

Who in your life has most influenced your personal style and taste?

My godfather, Jim Schwabacher. He was an elegant San Francisco chap - he passed away a few years ago - who had the most impeccable, casually glamorous taste of anyone I’ve ever known.

Fill in the blank: Whenever I look at a _______ I can’t help but smile.

Tuxedo cat. 

What’s the best part of your day? 

I love walking to work in the morning, especially around the perimeter of Gramercy Park, which is en route. It connects me to nature in a city where being connected to nature can be tricky.

Describe your ideal day.

Well, I’d sleep in a little late, but not so late as to miss the beautiful morning light. I’d have a simple breakfast with my husband, Daniel, and we’d drive out of the city and take a hike in the woods. For lunch we’d have a trailside picnic of leftover pasta. Later, we’d return to the city and have a salad and good bread for dinner, and watch something easy yet smart on TV, like Downton Abbey. And we’d go to bed early.

What is your favorite place to shop for antique/vintage pieces?

Jalan Surabaya, in Jakarta. It’s a street of tiny, scrappy antiques stalls. It used to be better thirty years ago, but, hey, I used to be better 30 years ago, too. 

What was the most memorable gift you’ve ever given or received? 

A few months ago I got a box of seven varieties of ripe mangoes from a friend in Miami. She’d grown them all on trees in her backyard. I went on an immediate mango-eating orgy, and with each juicy bite I took, my inner monologue was: This is the best gift I’ve ever gotten. Ever.

What was your last purchase that you believe will mean something to you 10 years from now?

A beautiful painting - a somber seascape with blackish water and a gray sky - from the artist Mary Beth Thielhelm. Some days I look at it and it seems ominous; other days, it reveals an energy that’s bright and optimistic. I love this painting more than I can say.