Blue and White China, Orientalism in the Kitchen

Two birds flying high,
A Chinese vessel, sailing by.
A bridge with three men, sometimes four,
A willow tree, hanging o'er.
A Chinese temple, there it stands,
Built upon the river sands.
An apple tree, with apples on,
A crooked fence to end my song.

It's no secret that I have a love affair with Steampunk and a Victorian aesthetic.  My husband, on the other hand, is very fond of the simple elegance of Asian (particularly Japanese-inspired) furnishings.  Where do two such opposite tastes combine?  Victorian Orientalism, of course.
William McGregor Paxton, The New Necklace

Starting in the 18th Century, Orientalism was a term used to describe the study of the East, most usually referring pretty much to any part of the globe that wasn't Europe or the Americas, particularly China, Japan, and other parts of East Asia, but also extending to India, the Middle East, and Northern Africa. Different areas had their own, unique highpoint with European culture, leading to all sorts of cultural offerings based on a romanticized idea of that particular land.  Orientalism moved waves, starting with fascination with the Middle East and India, and by the end of the 19th Century exemplified by the story of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta, The Mikado.

As an aside, the 1999 movie Topsy-Turvy deals with just that subject, focusing on the eccentricity of the author and composer, as well as the difficulty of the original cast in grasping an attempt (shocking for the era) to make the operetta in question actually Japanese in flavor, rather then classic theater tropes of the day, including ethnic stereotypes, dressed up in a new wrapper(and yes, Miss Sixpence-please did, in fact exist, although unfortunately little to nothing is known about her).

 Back to China.  The famous Blue Willow Pattern shown at the top, along with its famous little poem, is actually not a Chinese pattern, but was invented in Shropshire in 1780.  Minor changes have been made by various makers, leading to a story sprouting up about a pair of star-crossed young lovers, who are eventually turned into the birds at the top of the plate. 

Blue Willow China had a falling out of popularity in the later half of the last Century, but has now come back, stronger then ever.  A lucky thing for those like myself, who enjoy the ease with which it can mix and match with virtually anything, being dressed up or down as needed.

Here are some great ideas for using blue and white china, as well as mixing Orientalist ideas into the kitchen:

Blue Willow in the Butler's Pantry via Country Living...great way to mix up themes and colors.  

 A great example of a more eclectic and quirky collection, compared to above.  From House to Home.

Broken China Earrings...not kitchen, but I had to share. 

 Teapot from the Atlanta Antique Gallery

  Tea Tray made with broken china at the blot Pennello Lane. This one just got added to my personal to-do list. 

India Blue tablecloth at Blithe.

 Tablecloth by Indian Garden Company, available at Not On The High Street

Who says Steampunk has to be brown?

Teatime in a Winter Wondland

Art by Jaicca on DeviantArt.  Go here to see her breathtaking gallery.

From Fancyflours
Welcome to 2012! I'm going to be trying some new things for the new year, including an idea I've been bouncing around for a while: teatime posts. Once a month or so, I'm going to put up menu ideas, as well as pictures and links for a themed tea. If you use them, all that I ask is that you post and tell us how it went, mmmk?

This month,of course, is the peak of winter in all it's frosty glory. This brings some interesting challenges, as many of the tea party staples(cucumber sandwiches) are spring/early summer foods. Sure, you can go to the store and buy them out of season these days, but chances are they won't taste very good.

Book page snowflake garland from the blog Hipster's Tea Party

Suggested Menu


Ham and Jarlsburg on rosemary parmesan bread.

Sharp cheddar and chutney.

Cheese fondue, or a warm soup. Either of these are best for a small party. While a creamy soup might be by nice, the curried carrot soup below is a bit lighter(and tastes very good with small cheddar and chutney sandwiches).

For great fondue how-to, go here, or here


Home-made lemon or orange curd(like I made last winter), or homemade marmalade. Curds are great spread on bread, with cake, or as a tart.

Individually sized versions of this Bananas Foster bread pudding, perhaps with a rum custard sauce.

Cupcakes or cookies!

To drink:
Earl Gray, possibly a specifically winter blend like one of these here.
Hot spiced cider or cocoa. My Mother in Law likes to rub the rim of the cocoa cups in crushed peppermints and add a candy cane straw to the cocoa!

Cookies at What's Cooking America
GGKitchen Curried Carrot Soup

4 large carrots
2 T olive oil
Salt and white pepper

1/4 cup flour
3-4 cups good stock
1 T finely grated ginger
2-3 t curry powder, such as Madras (the distinctive metal tin)

1 cup heavy cream
Pinch sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup yellow raisins

Heat oven to 400F. Roughly chop carrots and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes, or until nicely caramelized. Stir at least twice.

More cookies from the blog KUIDAORE
Scrape contents of Cookie sheet into medium saucepan. Heat to med-high, adding spices. Slowly add flour, mixing carefully, and cooking for a few minutes. Add stock, a little at a time, stirring after each introduction.

Let simmer for 15 minutes, or until carrots are soft all the way through. Let cool slightly, then blend (carefully!).

Return to saucepan, and keep warm. Taste and adjust season if needed.

In a small mixing bowl, whip cream, with pinch of salt and sugar, to soft peaks. Store in fridge if not ready to serve yet.

When ready, pour soup into small bowls, and add small spoonful of cream, sprinkle with raisins. Very good with salty, cheesy sandwiches like those above.

By Wilton

Midwinter stock...or what I did with the goose

It was interesting to figure out what to put in with the goose for stock. The things that worked best(unsurprisingly) were the savory and sweet favors that worked bes then roasting. Still not a fan of pairing it with prunes, personally.

Goose Stock

Bones of one goose (a lot of smaller, finer bones then turkey...make sure you don't loose them or flip them out when straining)

Usual: carrot tops, onions, celery

Orange and lemon halves ( remove after first half hour)
Leek ends
A few leftover cranberries
Apple ends
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Happy New Year!

I'm pleased to announce that in addition to our regular posts on Victoriana, Steampunk, and culinary heritage, Great Grandmother's Kitchen will be adding a new monthly segment on tea, including ideas and inspiration for hosting a seasonally oriented tea party.
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