Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Fascinating World of Tea Cups

Within the world of tea parties, lies the hobby of collecting teacups and learning about their use. This interest also can evolve into accumulating teapots and tea sets, tea and tea party related items…whatever you have space for displaying and storing.

My daughter’s and my problem is finding room in our multi-generational household for displaying and storing those we’ve collected or have had handed down from pervious generations. Currently some of these are packed away in boxes.

At one house where my daughter lived, there was a large old-fashioned kitchen with space on top of cabinets, which ranged the room. Here she displayed teapots, fruit jars, and cookie jars.

Collecting Tea Cups

One of my aunts collected teacups and saucers in her travels and displayed them in her dining room, in a china cabinet and on shelves. Some were decorated with floral and fruit designs; others might have a picture noting the placed where she purchased it. Interspersed among her tea cups were plates from various states she visited.

I recall, as a child, being fascinated by Aunt Freda’s collection. I enjoyed listening to her tell me where and how she acquired them. They somewhat told a story about portions of her life.

A friend collects teacups and mugs to give away. When she needs a thank you or birthday gift, she often places a cup and saucer or mug in a napkin lined basked, some tea bags or packets of hot chocolate. She also might include some cookie treats to accompany them.

Cups and Saucers

When my daughter picked up a pretty saucer at a second hand store and my grandson asked what it was for, I realized that we’d gotten into the habit of using mugs for all our beverages. The grandchildren didn’t know that once cups were always used with saucers.

Most people nowadays use mugs. These often keep the beverage hot longer and make for fewer dishes to wash and store. However, mugs have come into frequent use fairly recently. I don’t think my mom or grandmother even possessed a mug during the days of my childhood. They generally used saucers with cups even though it meant more dishes to wash.

This was a place for laying your spoon after adding sugar and stirring your beverage. You also could place your tea bag here, instead of trying to find a space where it wouldn’t soil the table or tablecloth.

Some people also used saucers for cooling hot beverages! I recall my dad and the hired man pouring their coffee into their saucers, blowing onto it, then tipping the saucer to their lips. This practice was considered acceptable, at least at home. (I don’t think Father ever did this when dining out.)

Tea Versus Coffee Cups

There also was a distinction between tea and coffee cups, as I recall. Those for serving coffee were larger than the ones we used for tea. From this probably evolved the coffee mug that didn’t need a saucer.

Also, in older recipes, like those found in my aunt’s handwritten notebook, you find instructions, which call for a coffee cup or teacup of ingredients. In those days before sets of measuring cups could be purchased, homemakers used a coffee cup when they wanted a larger amount.

QUICK QUICHE to serve at tea time: Grease a pie plate or quiche dish. You can spray with vegetable spray instead.

Using cut-up cooked vegetables like broccoli, carrots, peas, cauliflower, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, etc., place them in the dish. Then add 1 to 2 cups grated cheese of your choice, such as Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mozzarella.

Stir or blend 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup biscuit mix, salt and pepper until well mixed. Pour these over the vegetables and cheese. (You can use low fat milk and cheese, as well as low fat biscuit mix.)

Bake about 35 minutes at 350 degrees F. until tests done.

©2005 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen writes from her multigenerational home in New Hampshire. She also writes for children and teaches writing and family history workshops. Visit her web site:
http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea; E-mail: me.allen@juno.com

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