Thursday, October 15, 2009

Asparagus! Asparagus!

A few years ago, I got hooked on buying French majolica during my regular trips to France. The term majolica was first coined by Herbert Minton, an English ceramist during the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.
The Crystal Palace in 1851

The term is a mistranslation of the Italian Renaissance term maiolica, but once coined my Minton, there was no turning back! English, Continental, and eventually American majolica was made from the mid to late 19th century. It is a type of earthenware fired at very high temperatures decorated with rich colored glazes. Just at the time when majolica was taking hold in France, something else was also gaining popularity: asparagus!
While asparagus has a long history going back as far as the first century, we have records of it growing in ancient Greece and Rome who took it as far as England. Though we also know that the Egyptians cultivated asparagus over 2,000 years ago for medicinal reasons and legend has it that it was so revered they offered it up to gods in their rituals.

We know that by the early 16th century, it was widely served in many of the Royal Courts of Europe and that until the 18th century, it was considered a luxury food and only eaten by the wealthy.
I haven't been able to pinpoint how or why, but with the industrial revolutions of the 19th century, the popularity of asparagus exploded both in France and the rest of the continent.
The industry was expanded with more widespread cultivation throughout England, France, Germany, and even the United States. You can say that people were crazy for asparagus!

Well, you can bet that the new French majolica (or barbotine as the French use) factories took note of the craze to start their own production of plates and servers. They made beautiful collections that have now become collector's items worldwide. Here are a few examples in our current offerings. Click here for our page featuring them. I will offer a 30% discount on any asparagus items for the next 30 days and will even throw in a copy of Maryse Bottero's book entiltled Artichokes et Asperges en barbotine, even though it is in French, the pictures are worth it.


Jackie Von Tobel said...

They all look delicious! I love the colors.

vicki archer said...

A wonderful collection of this china....I see it less and less now in France in the brocantes and at the salons. It is beautiful, enjoy. xv

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