January 2008



This last short post finishes the four part series of my tour called A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC.

By the period of this French dinner service, around 1770, while still made of tin-glazed earthenware, plates had begun to have more variety in shape and so now there were soup plates and matching serving platters, and gravy boats. As you can see the edges were also a bit more varied. The floral motif of decoration also reflects the idea that flowers were used in cooking much more so then than we do today. Marigolds, violets, calendulas, roses and lavender for example were often included in food preparation in earlier times.

I assume these are soup plates although I don’t remember the docent
saying this and I didn’t write it down.

There were many dinner plates in this set and in the background you can see a beautiful tapestry setting off the whole display

This tapestry was commissioned from a local Vancouver artist, Ruth Jones
in 1990 to complement this dinner service in the display

Ruth Jones is an accomplished tapestry artist who works in the Aubusson tradition and in fact she completed the graduate program in Tapestry Design and Production from the National School for Decorative Arts in Aubusson, France.



The final part of the tour included a taste of mead and some cookies made with flowers. Mead is still made by Middle Mountain Mead nearby on Hornby Island. This is from their website which is very interesting if you would like to explore there.

Mead is wine made from honey and water, often flavoured with herbs, fruits, spices and other botanical elements.

Middle Mountain Mead is an artisan honey winery combining the best of ancient and modern techniques to create small lots of premium handcrafted mead. As well as being a superb wine, mead has been central to rituals of celebration and remembrance down through the ages.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of ceramics and their food connection. If you missed the earlier posts in the series click for one, or for two and finally for three.

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This last short post finishes the four part series of my tour called A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC.

By the period of this French dinner service, around 1770, while still made of tin-glazed earthenware, plates had begun to have more variety in shape and so now there were soup plates and matching serving platters, and gravy boats. As you can see the edges were also a bit more varied. The floral motif of decoration also reflects the idea that flowers were used in cooking much more so then than we do today. Marigolds, violets, calendulas, roses and lavender for example were often included in food preparation in earlier times.

I assume these are soup plates although I don’t remember the docent
saying this and I didn’t write it down.

There were many dinner plates in this set and in the background you can see a beautiful tapestry setting off the whole display

This tapestry was commissioned from a local Vancouver artist, Ruth Jones
in 1990 to complement this dinner service in the display

Ruth Jones is an accomplished tapestry artist who works in the Aubusson tradition and in fact she completed the graduate program in Tapestry Design and Production from the National School for Decorative Arts in Aubusson, France.



The final part of the tour included a taste of mead and some cookies made with flowers. Mead is still made by Middle Mountain Mead nearby on Hornby Island. This is from their website which is very interesting if you would like to explore there.

Mead is wine made from honey and water, often flavoured with herbs, fruits, spices and other botanical elements.

Middle Mountain Mead is an artisan honey winery combining the best of ancient and modern techniques to create small lots of premium handcrafted mead. As well as being a superb wine, mead has been central to rituals of celebration and remembrance down through the ages.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of ceramics and their food connection. If you missed the earlier posts in the series click for one, or for two and finally for three.

Continuing my report on A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections next we turned to the ordinary plate, a relatively recent object for an individual. Initially people helped themselves from the communal dishes and their portion was held on a trencher, actually a slice of bread which soaked up the juices and was consumed.

Loaves of bread were round and cut into three layers horizontally. The poorer people were given the bottom part, more often burned than not because of the variability of the ovens, the workers the middle layer and finally the top part or the “upper crust” went to the richer or more important people.

Then the trencher became wooden and needless to say since the hygiene of the day left a lot to be desired they often gave rise to the disease known as trench mouth, or acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. Now I have heard that this term for the disease arose during the First World War, but this was what the docent told us. An expression that I use often is trencherman for someone who has a very hearty appetite and I once had to explain the word to an Italian including the derivation, in Italian. I wonder if he ever dropped it casually into conversation.

Eventually everyone had their own tin-glazed earthenware plate, sometimes with the name and year of manufacture as you can see above. These examples above are of Haban Faience, made by the Anabaptists, a group of radical religious dissenters which arose in Europe in the the sixteenth century. Their decoration was quite simple in style and usually reflected nature.


Collection of Tankards from Slovakia around 1670

These very nice tankards were part of the display in the exhibit, with the examples being both regular drinking drinking vessels along with some very large ones which were for decorative purposes only. So what did you drink with meals in those days? Well it depended where you lived. In Britain and the Germanic countries it tended to be ale or hard cider or mead, although mead, which is made from honey, was replaced by ale as honey became more expensive. In the Latin countries wine was more usual, while perry or pear cider was very common in Britain and France. The lids were separate and added if you could afford them. They were designed to keep out the flies and other insects. In certain parts of Germany laws were passed requiring these tankards to be covered. For those who could not afford the extra expense of a lid, a slice of well toasted bread was used as a cover and so the expression to “toast” someone or something arose.


A closer look at this rather large earthenware tankard with
its very fine pewter lid

Now I’d like to share a little about terminology used for this tin-glazed earthenware. The following three words were bandied about freely on this tour.

The first is faience and according to Wikipedia its derivation is as follows:

The name faience is simply the French name for Faenza, in the Romagna region near Ravenna, Italy, where a painted majolica ware on a clean, opaque pure-white ground, was produced for export as early as the fifteenth century.

Secondly we have majolica:

Majolica (pronounced and also spelled “maiolica”) is a garbled version of “Maiorica”, for the island of Majorca which was a transshipping point for refined tin-glazed earthenwares shipped to Italy from the kingdom of Aragon, in Spain at the close of the Middle Ages.

The third term was Delftware or English Delftware as noted before:

The first northerners to imitate the tin-glazed earthenwares being imported from Italy were the Dutch. Delftware is a kind of faience, made at potteries round Delft in Holland, characteristically decorated in blue on white, in imitation of the blue and white porcelain that was imported from China in the early sixteenth century, but it quickly developed its own recognisably Dutch décor.

To end on a personal note, I have visited Faenza on more than one occasion, especially to visit the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche or International Museum of Ceramics, a splendid museum which houses the greatest collection of ceramics in the world, with examples from classical times to pieces designed by Picasso, Chagall and Matisse.

In the time honoured tradition, the craftsmen of Faenza still practise the fine art of ceramics and there are more than sixty workshops still producing today and although expensive you can buy these beautiful pieces there in many stores. Yes, of course I did buy some on my visits and here you see a few examples of JMB’s small collection of Faenza ceramics. Yes, I do use all of them.


The patterns are garofono or carnation for the blue and red items on the right, fiorazzo for the beige platter and bowls and cartoccio for the blue covered dish in the centre front.

There is one more post to round out this series. Just a short one really for this one somehow became quite lengthy.

Continuing my report on A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections next we turned to the ordinary plate, a relatively recent object for an individual. Initially people helped themselves from the communal dishes and their portion was held on a trencher, actually a slice of bread which soaked up the juices and was consumed.

Loaves of bread were round and cut into three layers horizontally. The poorer people were given the bottom part, more often burned than not because of the variability of the ovens, the workers the middle layer and finally the top part or the “upper crust” went to the richer or more important people.

Then the trencher became wooden and needless to say since the hygiene of the day left a lot to be desired they often gave rise to the disease known as trench mouth, or acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. Now I have heard that this term for the disease arose during the First World War, but this was what the docent told us. An expression that I use often is trencherman for someone who has a very hearty appetite and I once had to explain the word to an Italian including the derivation, in Italian. I wonder if he ever dropped it casually into conversation.

Eventually everyone had their own tin-glazed earthenware plate, sometimes with the name and year of manufacture as you can see above. These examples above are of Haban Faience, made by the Anabaptists, a group of radical religious dissenters which arose in Europe in the the sixteenth century. Their decoration was quite simple in style and usually reflected nature.


Collection of Tankards from Slovakia around 1670

These very nice tankards were part of the display in the exhibit, with the examples being both regular drinking drinking vessels along with some very large ones which were for decorative purposes only. So what did you drink with meals in those days? Well it depended where you lived. In Britain and the Germanic countries it tended to be ale or hard cider or mead, although mead, which is made from honey, was replaced by ale as honey became more expensive. In the Latin countries wine was more usual, while perry or pear cider was very common in Britain and France. The lids were separate and added if you could afford them. They were designed to keep out the flies and other insects. In certain parts of Germany laws were passed requiring these tankards to be covered. For those who could not afford the extra expense of a lid, a slice of well toasted bread was used as a cover and so the expression to “toast” someone or something arose.


A closer look at this rather large earthenware tankard with
its very fine pewter lid

Now I’d like to share a little about terminology used for this tin-glazed earthenware. The following three words were bandied about freely on this tour.

The first is faience and according to Wikipedia its derivation is as follows:

The name faience is simply the French name for Faenza, in the Romagna region near Ravenna, Italy, where a painted majolica ware on a clean, opaque pure-white ground, was produced for export as early as the fifteenth century.

Secondly we have majolica:

Majolica (pronounced and also spelled “maiolica”) is a garbled version of “Maiorica”, for the island of Majorca which was a transshipping point for refined tin-glazed earthenwares shipped to Italy from the kingdom of Aragon, in Spain at the close of the Middle Ages.

The third term was Delftware or English Delftware as noted before:

The first northerners to imitate the tin-glazed earthenwares being imported from Italy were the Dutch. Delftware is a kind of faience, made at potteries round Delft in Holland, characteristically decorated in blue on white, in imitation of the blue and white porcelain that was imported from China in the early sixteenth century, but it quickly developed its own recognisably Dutch décor.

To end on a personal note, I have visited Faenza on more than one occasion, especially to visit the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche or International Museum of Ceramics, a splendid museum which houses the greatest collection of ceramics in the world, with examples from classical times to pieces designed by Picasso, Chagall and Matisse.

In the time honoured tradition, the craftsmen of Faenza still practise the fine art of ceramics and there are more than sixty workshops still producing today and although expensive you can buy these beautiful pieces there in many stores. Yes, of course I did buy some on my visits and here you see a few examples of JMB’s small collection of Faenza ceramics. Yes, I do use all of them.


The patterns are garofono or carnation for the blue and red items on the right, fiorazzo for the beige platter and bowls and cartoccio for the blue covered dish in the centre front.

There is one more post to round out this series. Just a short one really for this one somehow became quite lengthy.


Assorted Apothecary jars in the collection

As I said in a recent post I went on this new tour, A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections at the Koerner Ceramic Gallery at the Museum of Anthropology.

A recent addition to the tours at the Museum, it was led by a docent, Arlee and first of all she talked about Walter C. Koerner, his connection as a benefactor to the university and the museum. I was familiar with the late Mr Koerner as I saw him on occasion over the years at various university functions and for the last 18 years of my pharmacy career I went to work in the Koerner Pavilion, which was the Acute Care building of the hospital at the University.

The ceramics housed at the museum were Mr Koerner’s personal collections, which started when he was a young boy in his native land, formerly Moravia but later part of Czechoslovakia. and there are over 600 pieces covering the period from 1500 to 1900. It was decided that instead of just talking about the bald facts known of the objects this tour should highlight the social history of some of the items, namely those related to food. So Arlee began to talk about food habits and how they reflect the times and fit with the cultural context. In no way was this talk exhaustive and I report it just as it occurred.

In the Middle Ages and beyond, food was medicine and medicine was food. Medical practice often consisted of trying to balance in the body, often by means of diet, the four humours which are shown in the chart below from this article.

Humour Season Element Organ Qualities Ancient name Modern MBTI Ancient characteristics
Blood spring air liver warm & moist sanguine artisan SP courageous, hopeful, amorous
Yellow bile summer fire gall bladder warm & dry choleric guardian SJ easily angered, bad tempered
Black bile autumn earth spleen cold & dry melancholic rational NT despondent, sleepless, irritable
Phlegm winter water brain/lungs cold & moist phlegmatic idealist NF calm, unemotional

So the first ceramics we looked at were apothecary jars of different types. All were made of tin-glazed earthenware and depending where they originated they were called faience, majolica or deftware. Some of the jars were actually for liquids and had spouts for pouring while others were for dry ingredients or salves. Some had the names of the contents incorporated into the design of the glaze. Usually the glaze was white to duplicate china which was very rare and expensive and often the decoration had an Eastern flavour. As an aside, apothecary jars are still produced today as decorative accessories for pharmacies and homes. Most of the ones I have seen in pharmacies over my career were made of glass which of course does not protect the contents from light so these earthenware ones were superior in that aspect.


A rather elaborate salt dish

There were several attractive salt dishes or salt cellars in the collection and this one was quite charming. Because salt was so expensive the actual container part for the salt is small but the overall dish is large and ornate to represent the importance of salt. Because salt was obtained from the sea as well as mines the decorative images on the cellar were often images or fish or sea gods.

During the Middle Ages when salt was a valuable commodity, salt would be kept on the table in elaborate metal or glass dishes as a status symbol.

Last year I read an interesting 400 plus page book called Salt: a world history, by Mark Kurlansky which certainly told me more than I ever wanted to know on this topic. Unfortunately it was a bit tedious at times but I still enjoyed it on the whole. I think most people know that the word salary is derived from the days when people were paid for work in salt and of course to sit above or below the salt designated one’s importance to the host. These two facts were the only two related on this tour.


A smaller but more decorated salt dish

Next time we’ll look at a few tankards. As I said snippets of fact were dropped rather randomly on this tour and I apologize for the fact that they are a bit disorganized and not at all comprehensive. They did provide a suggested reading list both on ceramics and food related topics and there is always google.


Assorted Apothecary jars in the collection

As I said in a recent post I went on this new tour, A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections at the Koerner Ceramic Gallery at the Museum of Anthropology.

A recent addition to the tours at the Museum, it was led by a docent, Arlee and first of all she talked about Walter C. Koerner, his connection as a benefactor to the university and the museum. I was familiar with the late Mr Koerner as I saw him on occasion over the years at various university functions and for the last 18 years of my pharmacy career I went to work in the Koerner Pavilion, which was the Acute Care building of the hospital at the University.

The ceramics housed at the museum were Mr Koerner’s personal collections, which started when he was a young boy in his native land, formerly Moravia but later part of Czechoslovakia. and there are over 600 pieces covering the period from 1500 to 1900. It was decided that instead of just talking about the bald facts known of the objects this tour should highlight the social history of some of the items, namely those related to food. So Arlee began to talk about food habits and how they reflect the times and fit with the cultural context. In no way was this talk exhaustive and I report it just as it occurred.

In the Middle Ages and beyond, food was medicine and medicine was food. Medical practice often consisted of trying to balance in the body, often by means of diet, the four humours which are shown in the chart below from this article.

Humour Season Element Organ Qualities Ancient name Modern MBTI Ancient characteristics
Blood spring air liver warm & moist sanguine artisan SP courageous, hopeful, amorous
Yellow bile summer fire gall bladder warm & dry choleric guardian SJ easily angered, bad tempered
Black bile autumn earth spleen cold & dry melancholic rational NT despondent, sleepless, irritable
Phlegm winter water brain/lungs cold & moist phlegmatic idealist NF calm, unemotional

So the first ceramics we looked at were apothecary jars of different types. All were made of tin-glazed earthenware and depending where they originated they were called faience, majolica or deftware. Some of the jars were actually for liquids and had spouts for pouring while others were for dry ingredients or salves. Some had the names of the contents incorporated into the design of the glaze. Usually the glaze was white to duplicate china which was very rare and expensive and often the decoration had an Eastern flavour. As an aside, apothecary jars are still produced today as decorative accessories for pharmacies and homes. Most of the ones I have seen in pharmacies over my career were made of glass which of course does not protect the contents from light so these earthenware ones were superior in that aspect.


A rather elaborate salt dish

There were several attractive salt dishes or salt cellars in the collection and this one was quite charming. Because salt was so expensive the actual container part for the salt is small but the overall dish is large and ornate to represent the importance of salt. Because salt was obtained from the sea as well as mines the decorative images on the cellar were often images or fish or sea gods.

During the Middle Ages when salt was a valuable commodity, salt would be kept on the table in elaborate metal or glass dishes as a status symbol.

Last year I read an interesting 400 plus page book called Salt: a world history, by Mark Kurlansky which certainly told me more than I ever wanted to know on this topic. Unfortunately it was a bit tedious at times but I still enjoyed it on the whole. I think most people know that the word salary is derived from the days when people were paid for work in salt and of course to sit above or below the salt designated one’s importance to the host. These two facts were the only two related on this tour.


A smaller but more decorated salt dish

Next time we’ll look at a few tankards. As I said snippets of fact were dropped rather randomly on this tour and I apologize for the fact that they are a bit disorganized and not at all comprehensive. They did provide a suggested reading list both on ceramics and food related topics and there is always google.


OLD FASHIONED

I grew up in the days when women were not properly dressed unless they wore hats and gloves and matching shoes and handbags. All through my twenties until sometime in my early thirties I always wore a hat. Then came freedom from hats and “hat hair“.

There has been a resurgence in the wearing of hats by some women, including me, and you saw one of my current hats in the RED Saturday Photo Hunt.

Despite moving to two different countries in the meantime, I still have one hat from my youth in Australia, all those many years ago. I bought it for the wedding of a university friend who married the year we graduated, in 1957. So fifty years old, and rather OLD FASHIONED, but still quite lovely, may I present this hat which I do wear very occasionally.


I need an invite to a garden party tea. Don’t you love
the full-blown roses?

I could not decide which angle was better, so you have both.


Two OLD FASHIONED ladies, with JMB on the right, never without a hat
in those days, the Fifties

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYONE

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