Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present “Square With Flair?” This is SWF’s first article as a blogger, guest or otherwise, and I think that you will find much to appreciate. As is always the case with my readers, I’ve learned a thing or two. So without further ado, I leave you to your reading.
— The Editor.
Characteristic of great hostesses and hosts is originality in the presentation of food and refreshments. Jackie Kennedy, Pauline de Rothschild, the Duchess of Windsor, and nowadays Martha Stewart, set luncheon, tea, and dinner tables, in unique and memorable ways.
Recently perusing the heavy auction catalogs of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, I was impressed by the number of different services and dishes the Duchess used for her famous dinner parties and carefully conceived table settings. Price was not necessarily a consideration; she had everything from inexpensive, cheerful, Italian peasant pottery to museum quality Meissen and Sèvres porcelain. She was aware that simple meals can be made extraordinary by unusual presentation or variations, and monetary value did not always guarantee the desired chic effect.
One of my favourite pieces of china to use when entertaining and serving is the breakfast cup. One seldom sees them any more. These jumbo cups and saucers hold a more generous, almost double, capacity. They avoid the preciousness of the regular teacup which sometimes seems too formal or outdated for our casual lifestyles. In the era of supersizing, this cup impresses guests as generous and luxurious. I pick mine up at antique shows, or eBay, where typically they are much less expensive than new pieces. As they were intended for breakfast, the most casual meal, they are most often earthenware, and were made by manufacturers such as Burleigh, Johnson Brothers, Doulton, Royal Worcester, Spode, and Wedgwood. If china or porcelain is one’s preference, breakfast cups exist in fine Limoges porcelain or the prestige bone china of Royal Crown Derby.
If you are having a brunch or afternoon tea, or really anytime tea or coffee is served, breakfast cups are wonderfully pampering. They also mean the hostess can be more relaxed because she has to fill them up less frequently! The wide and generous under saucer easily accommodates cookies, biscotti, cucumber sandwiches, or small slices of cake.
While casual circumstances often permit the use of mugs or “beakers” as they are disparagingly named in the U.K., mugs present the problem of where to place the wet, dripping spoon, don’t hold a finger sandwich, and certainly don’t look elegant.
Lastly, for an original, memorable, and amusing touch at a meal, the breakfast cup may be used as a good size bowl during the soup course, and is wonderful for this purpose, either with or without a spoon.
Most commonly, breakfast cups seen at antique shops and shows are in classic monochromatic Staffordshire transfer ware in pink/red, blue, or brown. This gives a wonderful effect similar to the classic French Toiles de Jouy. I find the pink-red great for spring, summer and Christmas. Brown looks rich and warm for fall and winter, especially by the fireside. Classic under glaze blue, as seen in the blue willow pattern, looks crisp and delightful for any season.
Next time you see the long forgotten breakfast cup at a tag sale, pick it up and give it a test run. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Square With Flair™