Saturday, September 6, 2008

A British breakfast

I was flipping through British Country Living Magazine this morning for the first time. Did you know there was a UK edition? News to me. I enjoyed it and not just because I adored the British cottage in the movie, The Holiday. Foriegn design magazines were part of my livilihood in fashion, now I read them as part of a lively life. I will cross hill and dale to get a copy of British or Italian Vogue, Cote de Sud or it's ilk: Masion, Oest, and Paris among others. And certainly, there are other photographic beauties from our own shores which do not get enough credit for their work, like Claire Murray's La Vie Claire. These are dazzlingly well done examples of photo-centric publications. The images in the French Cote d' Sud Magazines are so hauntingly glorious some have remained in my memory for years.

If you are not yet a reader of these publications because they are not easily accessed or because the expense of subscriptions or buying them (from the back top shelf at Barnes and Noble) can be remarkably costly, they are available to you for basic perusing on the websites above. If you feel you will have a hard time sorting through magazines written in other languages, then for a while it might be best to stick to the astounding photographs. In time, more of the verbage will make sense than one may have assumed. Look it over - don't many of those words seems familiar and relativly easy to understand?

Anyway, I digress. I have actually appeared before you this morning to mention my great love for several pieces of the British breakfast service I have thought quite highly of since I was the ripe age of ten and fortunate enough to accompany my Mother (Mum) and my British Granddad (not to mention my Irish Grandmother and my smart remarking nine-year-old Brother, but that is a story for another day) to England for a visit to London and then Hartlepool, where my Grandfather began his long and marvelous journey through life. My flip through British Country Living reminded me how exquisite and, at the same time, simple, the British breakfast table can be.

During that trip we stayed at several old inns and B&B's. Nevermind that for reasons far beyond me, all food tasted better in the dining rooms of these dusty estabilshments and in the homes of real people than anywhere else on either British Isle: The way food was served at breakfast was a mite more gracious than home. Later, I would see an occasional breakfast served at this level again, but only in fine hotels in London. In fact, my vistis to Conde Nast's "Most Impressive and Ridiculous Hotels" or whatever they call it, never truly touched the thought-through pretty tables of old fashioned little inns in the British Isles. Once in a while, there is a flash of brilliance far from British shores at a Ritz or Four Seasons or something, but they never have the same luster as the real thing for all their trying.

When I think of items that make a breakfast table special, they are not enormous honking sterling tea and coffee services - but, by all means, if you can, do! But smaller, more utilitarian items that were battered, probably handed down, and certainly well used truly made the tables novel to us wee Americans and memorable to all who rarely saw these fine objects:

Sugar tongs : Yes, sugar is still available in thoughtful neat cubes at the supermarket. These glorious tongs are hallmarked vintage British sterling and cost a fortune, but here is a lovely (albeit a little light in the hand), pair which will set you back only $2.95.

Honey jar: Here is fine example. I will tell you that I have searched high and low for one that satisfied me and come up empty. This one is the closest so far. Not even a recent Martha Stewart Living piece highlighting honey jars in the June, 2008 issue proved to yield one that would do. The hunt continues and I am still young.

Jam caddy: Here.

Toast rack: A sweet and easy version can be found Sur la Table. But the best can be found in the Estate Silver Collection at Michael C. Fina or sterling antiquies dealers everywhere.

Individual butter dishes: Now you'll really need that butler's pantry.

Transferware: Which has a club of collectors, devotees, and a resource for buying these s or pieces called, fittingly, Transferware Collectors Club.

Biscuit box: Now, for this item, you will really need an antiquitues dealer to help you locate a good one, in larger dealers there will be many on display in sterling. But be forewarned, the mediocre silver items will run between $500 - $1000. And the old glass pieces will begin at $200. I have been wholly unsuccessful at finding producers currently making biscuit boxes which are as attractive on a table as the antique pieces, like this.

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