Friday, 15 March 2013

Responding to Zhoen.

A few days ago, in her almost-daily meditative blog, Zhoen wrote here about salt and pepper and I threatened to show her something of my collection of condiment sets.
So here you are, Zhoen.
A very small part of the collection!

She may well ask 'why?', as I do myself.
Well, the little Dutch couple with the windmill, standing on their original box, were a wedding present to my parents in 1937. They were never used, and were hidden away for many years because they were made in Japan, and the British did not have a good association with the Japanese in the 1940s.
Many, many years later I found the other little Japanese Dutch girl with her goose and her windmill, and  added her as a matter of interest.

So why the Dutch influence?
These sets are Marutomo ware, and for a great many years the Japanese only wished to trade with the Dutch and the Chinese - hence the clogs and windmills are a 1920s, 1930s hangover from much longer-established trading traditions.
Why condiment sets?
Goodness only knows.
I know why I have collected them. They don't take up much room on a shelf in the kitchen, they are interesting and quirky and colourful and funny.
And empty.

I have a salt mill and a pepper mill. People may use them if they wish, but I am not very happy if they reach for them before even tasting the food I have carefully seasoned. They are filled with Malden salt and good black pepper, whereas these little things would be used for fine-pouring table salt, dusty white pepper and a wet paste of English mustard. Not usable at all, so their little cork bungs are still immaculate.

What you see is the tip of a small iceberg of three-piece condiment sets. Several English potteries made and still make them, as did and do German and many other European factories. So I have three-piece sets of timbered cottages, loaves of bread, little mills with attached water-wheels, birds in a nest, fruit and vegetables in a dish, wrestling elephants, posing dogs, flowers in baskets, sea-shells think of it, and it's likely that someone has made it into a condiment set.

Why, indeed?


Jee said...

I really like the tomato ones. My mother also had quite a collection - though goodness knows where they've disappeared to!

Relatively Retiring said...

Jee; It's a shame they've vanished. Some of them do quite well on eBay!

Molly said...

I wouldn't have thought you'd be a condiment set collector, though I'm not sure whether "I wonder if that person collects condiment sets?" even occurs to me when I meet someone for the first time! They certainly are colourful and quirky!

Zhoen said...

Ah, as a form for creative expression. As good a reason as any. Unusable thimbles or tiny tea cups. Bright, cheerful, charming, excellent reasons.

This has quite a number of the silly variety.

I still prefer Cholula sauce.

The Elephant's Child said...

Some time, I would like to see some of the others you have collected. There is always room in my world for colourful and quirky.

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: now that really interesting - 'does she collect condiment sets' as a personality test!

Zhoen: or just plain daftness!

Elephant's Child: I don't really want to embarrass myself any further!

Zhoen said...

Nothing wrong with daft. Call it eccentric. I'd love to see more of these.

Julia said...

my grandmother had cottage condiment sets, and butter dishes, teapots, a veritable village in fact

she never used them, they sat safely locked in a glass-fronted sideboard

not so safe, I knew where the key was hidden

wish I'd thought to ask for one when she died, too late, so sad

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: I'm working on that idea.

Julia: yes, I've got cottage wares too, butter-dish, biscuit barrel etc. inspired by the long-lost cottage-shaped cheese dish from my childhood.

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Jenny Woolf said...

There is something entrancing about salt and pepper sets, and they do seem to set off so many peoples' imaginations. I've just seen some in the shape of the most beautiful hens.

Frances said...

The object disguised as something else: such a fashion once,always entrancing to children, I think. The cow jug I'm still fond of. The salad platter with china (?) hard boiled eggs in the centre is one that floored me.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jenny: I enjoy the bizarre nature of these cruet sets and I've seen some really weird ones. Hens sound good!

Frances: as with my comment to Jenny, I find such enjoyment in the bizarre. The cow creamer vomiting milk is strangely traditional. As a child I was a bit disturbed by my egg cup, formed as a chicken supporting an egg, with china yolk trickling down it. Breakfast was marred by the thought that an egg is a dead chicken.

Isabelle said...

And why do I have about thirty jugs?

Jenny Woolf said...

Thanks for the link to Zhoen's salt and pepper blog entry and for this one of yours. If I collected things (which I try not to) I would probably collect salt and pepper shakers in strange shapes. In fact, I do have a pair of psychedelic ones I don't use but can't bear to get rid of.

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