I visited my English friend recently. She made me a cup of proper tea and I admired her delicate bone china teapot and cups. Before I left she showed me her set of Spode china, the Chinese Rose pattern. There were several pieces that intrigued me. One was the “slop” cup. It was a little larger than the sugar bowl and was used to accept the used tea leaves… “You must empty the dregs before you make another pot of tea,” I was told. There were several covered vegetable dishes and the usual dinner and luncheon plates, as well as teacups and saucers, and a set of 12 egg cups. (She laughed, telling me she was silly for getting those because “who has twelve people for breakfast?”). There were also extra large teacups, “for breakfast tea.” Very much like coffee mugs, I thought.
My Dad has talked about how his mother “set a pretty table.” That is interesting because they lived on a large farm in Kansas, including during the depression years. I know my grandmother cooked all day long in the summers, carrying food out to the fields. And yet, it seems she took time to make the table as attractive as she could when they ate at home. I imagine my grandfather bought her china cupboard so she could display and care for her pretty china. Almost no one bothers to set a “pretty” table anymore. I know I usually don’t.
When I was young I did not appreciate china. The other day, though, just looking at it gave me joy. I no longer care that it has to be washed by hand or handled carefully. It is beautiful, and using it makes any meal or drink memorable. I found the photo of the cup above at a site that sells old china. It is the same pattern as my friend’s china, although a limited edition special cup, and I’m thinking maybe someday I will try to get myself one to use on New Year’s Eves, and very likely at other times too.