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When dinner was served up, the soup tureen was a goose, the butter-boats a pair of ducks, the salt-cellers foot-tubs, with handles, staves, and hoops, all cut in glass; and I observed, among other animals on my blue-and-white plate, a pig feeding out of a trough. After the cloth was removed, I began to expostulate, at some length, with my cousin upon his bad taste, enumerating the many deplorable evidences of it, and entreating him, in the mildest manner in the world, to throw them behind the fire. To my astonishment he let me know they were quite the fashion every where......
from Mr. P's Visit to London, The Monthly Magazine, New York 1822

Tureens & taste

Ceramic poultry and game at the dining table

2 lidded tureens in shape of ducks Bird-shaped tureens were popular in the 18th century, and have never completely gone out of fashion since. These English duck- and hen-shaped tureens from 1755 have plenty of appeal today, even though we have become rather coy about the link between real animals, butchers, and our food. At least one current US company offers similar dishes for your dining table.

Hen tureen, chick as handle But who would choose to adorn their table with this tureen from Liverpool? The stoneware trussed goose with eyes, beak and claws says a bit too much about life and death for most of us to want it in the dining room. Even the "how to" illustrations in 19th century cookery books left the head off, though descriptions of how to examine the birds when shopping were quite explicit.

Geese - The bill and feet of a young one will be yellow, and there will be but few hairs upon them; if old, they will be red: if fresh, the feet will be pliable; if stale, dry and stiff. Geese are called green till three or four months old. Green geese should be scalded: a stubble-goose should be picked dry.
Maria Rundell, New System of Domestic Cookery, 1814

sketches of dressed goose, pheasant etc.This French 18th century duck-shaped tureen suggests that fashions in France and England were not too different. By the 19th century English serving dishes were often abundantly decorated with ceramic fauna. Game pie dishes, among others, were ornamented with "images of sumptuous game animals", implying wealth and status in an era when partridge and hare were reserved for well-to-do wealthy landowners.

14 November 2007

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