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August 10, 2011

Taste Buds in Your Eyes?

Margaret Maron

Many years ago, I blacked out for no apparent reason and fell flat on my face.  I broke a tooth and needed 13 stitches in my lower lip, which left me with a couple of tiny numb spots.  Most times it’s not a problem, but every once in a while, when I drink from a straight-lipped mug, I might dribble a few drops—usually when I’m wearing a light-colored top, of course. As a result, I always go for a flared-rim mug if one’s available.

101_0210 I have written elsewhere about the ceramic Scottish mug I’ve used for the last 30 years, but it’s not just the flared rim that makes me reach for this particular mug every morning because I have other backups in the cupboard.  I don’t know if it's a combination of memories, the comfortable handle or what, but coffee just tastes better in this mug than in the others. 

On the other hand, if I’m having hot tea, I want it in our thinnest porcelain tea cup, not a ceramic mug. 

Stainless steel spoons are just fine for morning cereal or noonday soup, but for stirring sugar into my tea cup, it must be the hundred-year-old sterling silver spoon that I keep for this purpose alone.  That spoon occasionally goes walkabout and if I can’t find it, then I’d just as soon forget about the tea altogether, thank you very much.

We own two sets of cereal bowls.  One is part of our everyday china, the other is Corelle. Both are plain unadorned white, yet if all the Corelle bowls are dirty when I’m ready for cereal, I will dig one out of the dishwasher and wash it by hand rather than use one of the other bowls.  For tomato soup though, I always prefer one of the others.

Ice cream tastes better to me when served in a martini glass and eaten with a long-handled gold colored teaspoon.  You can pour my bourbon and most wines into whatever's handy—anything from Baccarat crystal to a foam cup, but my favorite Riesling needs to go into an etched crystal wineglass that cost $2 at a flea market.

100_1843 I have bought my husband many different egg cups over the years.  He keeps going back to the same old blue-and-white pottery one that’s badly chipped.

When I was researching Uncommon Clay, I bought several sandwich plates from different potteries.  He will always reach for the sandwich plate with a crow on it. I want the one with the abstract design.  100_1839

I guess this just goes to prove that gustatory enjoyment depends on more than the taste buds alone. I’m sure I couldn’t tell one bowl from another in a blind taste test, but with my eyes open?  Oh, yes.

What about you? Are certain spoons or dishes  "must haves" for certain foods? 


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I usually reach for my pink coffee mug with a ladybug design. Somehow, I think that this is my lucky cup. The ladybugs clash with the strawberry design in my ratty robe but the paparazzi will not be waiting when I go out for the morning paper so it does not matter.
Sometime I will use my Paris design cup..a gift from my daughter which she brought home from the Paris hotel in Vegas.
I eat cereal in my Corelle bowl but I have convinced myself that the newer ones are larger than the older ones..they are not.
I eat instant oatmeal in a Tupperware bowl and feel that somehow I begin my day with a sense of control and sanity. Who knows what happens later in the day.

This is such a delightful blog, Margaret. Thank you.

My new "South of the Border" Pedro mug is now a must-use for my breakfast coffee. I've used it every day I've been home since I got it last week, and I intend to use it every day until it breaks. Unfortunately, it is not as racist as I was hoping, but I guess I have to move forward as even SOB gets politically correct.

And I do try to use the white Corelle dishes instead of the stoneware for microwaving. Those Corelle dishes will outlast a nuclear war.

I want a coffee mug that will allow me to wrap at least two of my fingers around it through the handle. My husband will always opt for a wine glass with a stem but I prefer a handblown sturdy clear glass (I break a lot). And, I always, always, always eat with a long fork, not a short dessert fork! We have both types mixed in the same drawer. I didn't realize that everyone had noticed until, on one occasion, a guest was helping to set the table for dinner and one of the kids gasped "You can't give Mom that short fork!"

This is so true, Margaret! I have certain mugs in rotation for my coffee, but tea is in the thin porcelain ones. If I have the gumption to make a latte, that goes in the big PHILADELPHIA mug. I have to have most beverages in a glass, but water when I exercise is in a plastic cup. I will use a plastic tupperware plate for a sandwich and chips, but eggs have to go on a china plate.

Josh, so true about Corelle. They last forever, and when they finally decide to break, they shatter into a zillion pieces - I guess if they go out, they have to do it with dramatic flair.

When I was growing up my grandmother worked for Lipton Tea, so I was brainwashed early: always a true china cup, always a silver spoon. Of course, my current china cup is one I picked up at a discount store for three bucks, but it's English and it has lovely roses on it.

There's also a silver-plated spoon I picked up at a yard sale that is the only one I will use to eat cereal--I have no idea why.

My must-use coffee mugs are the ones I bought at the COOP back in Cambridge. Actually they were in a Godiva gift set of chocolates, cookies, and cocoa mix. Um, or was it Ghiradelli?

It was a gift box, I'm sure of that. I was going to send it to my granddaughter in Denmark, for a Christmas gift.

I fell in love with those mugs. They were crisp white with a darkish green pine tree and cones design. Just the right size. Perfect handle. Pretty. Reminded me of the home where I spent my early childhood.

The more I looked at those mugs the more I realised they'd probably break in the mail. What could possibly be worse than sending a girl a gift, only to have her open it on Christmas morning to learn that the jingly sound wasn't a game but shattered cocoa mugs - and all the sherds had found there way into the cocoa, and cookies, and candy!

No way I could disappoint that girl. I had to keep the mugs. I bought a few more unbreakable things to add to the box, drove it over to the Fort Point Post Office, and was very satisfied with my considerate self.

Six years later our granddaughter came to visit wih her first-ever boyfriend. I woke up to find them in the kitchen giggling over their morning coffee. You have to know that I have a husband who has inherited or bought every coffee mug and teacup ever brought to or made in the new world. Which mugs were she and he using for their breakfast coffee? Yeah. MY pretty pineconey mugss

He did not speak English, and I speak very little Danish - practially zero. But this much I understood. As she nodded her head he was saying (in Danish) "Yes, I love these! Don't they remind you of the place we stayed at in Sweden? We must find some of these to bring home with us."

I don't drink coffee or tea, and my husband only drinks it rarely, but people are always giving us mugs and coffee beans (if we don't drink coffee, we certainly don't have a grinder!) so I have an enormous collection. Some day, I'll have a whopping garage sale.

But I adore platters and bowls. I have a zillion, I'm ashamed to say. I want the food to look pretty, so I choose my serving pieces to enhance the picture.

How funny, Reine! I have a friend who also gravitates to my Scottish mug if I don't get to the kitchen first.
Amusing to read y'all's reaction to Corelle, too. There's something about their thinness, isn't there?
Sheila, my tea cups are regular size, but I also have a collection of dainty porcelain demitasses that I use for espresso. Don't like thick-walled miniature mugs for espresso or cappuccino either.

I hate coffee in anything but a good solid mug--I always took my own stoneware mug (with a nice lip) to faculty meeting so I wouldn't have to drink coffee out of styrofoam. My current favorite "writing" mug was made by a potter friend of mine for my 50th birthday. I know I write best when I'm drinking out of it. Tea, however, I like out of my over-sized (not porcelain since it will cool off too fast. I know, blasphemy) mugs.

I always use placemats--even if it's just me and a bowl of Special-K. And cloth napkins.

Margaret, because of a dental surgery mishap in 1986, I also have a numb place on my lip that causes occasional accidental drool. Never thought to use a cup or mug with a flare. That might have come in handy during the early years, when it was a lot worse.

Corelle is made by laminating three very thin layers of glass together, which is then hold together by pressure, somehow. When the one layer is chipped the whole piece shatters. Corning will honor their lifetime warranty on any piece that breaks, no matter how old it is. I've tested this twice. Brilliant American innovation--too bad we don't have more of that these days. Corelle we invented 40 years ago already!

When we redid the kitchen 12 years ago, I set aside my Corelle for the next daughter to go off to college and replaced all our dinnerware with cobalt blue Fiestaware. Honestly, I think everything you put on that color looks more appetizing, it's so beautiful.

And of course, potato salad should only ever be served from my wonderful white enameled bowl with dill sprigs on the side. Much like Margaret's mug, except bigger and green.It just tasted better from that bowl.

Judy, we also use cloth napkins. Every day, even at the farm.

Margaret, what a fantastic question.

I cannot pass up a mug; when I see one I like, I buy it. I have thousands. But 90% of the time, I must drink my coffee out of one of my Superman mugs. I have two, but my favorite one says "Man of Steel" on it.

In related news, yesterday I dropped a Pyrex Bowl on my toe. The bowl survived. My toe, however, is black, bloody and bulbous. Ouch.

I drink my coffee from my Daddy's old ceramic mug. I inherited his love of coffee and the mug. He's no longer here with me, so I love using something every day that belonged to him.

On a less sentimental note, I MUST drink my V-8 juice from my "Muppets in Space" jelly jar glass. I don't know the reason for this one, except maybe my crush on Kermie.

I never really thought about it, although I do have a favorite cup for tea...actually a mug with Eeyore embossed on the side. And my iced tea has to go in a clear tall glass. I'm actually in the process of relocating the china cups my mom had displayed in a breakfront so I can put them in the new curio cabinet. They probably would keep tea warm for all about there seconds, but they bring back some great memories....those and the tulip plates.

Come on over! Princess one (about to be ten) and Princess two (six) can go ten rounds on who gets the Cinderella bowl. Their tastes change, but I have a collection of bowls and plates with various characters on them. You just don't want to get the plates wrong!

One of my weaknesses is whiskey Christmas gift sets. One thing is by getting a Jameson water pitcher, you can sometimes save $5.00 on the whiskey. Works for me! So, Karen, should you ever make it over for a little Scotch, the preferred glasses are: Amaretto di Saronno square glasses; Michelob brandy snifters; and Jameson Highball glasses.

Corelle has a neat website. http://www.corelle.com/index.asp?pageId=1

Ooh - I really like those square Corelle sets...

OH, I love platters, too. And we always use cloth napkins!

But glasses? We have our weekend martinis in matching glasses (Jonathan and I have to have the same kind, I know, silly)) from our martini glass collection. Our pals always give us two. And we always chill them in the freezer first, so the glasses are frosty.

Mugs? Well, I use my Mystery Lovers Bookstore ones, of course!

I'm into recycle on the plates. Yes I have some pretty orange and yellow and teal earthenware ones from Pottery Barn displayed on the hutch but I only use them for company.
I have to have metal utensils. Even for a BBQ I put out the real forks. I must have 30 of them that are all orphans. Excuse the pun but plastic knives just don't cut it!
The wedding china, all 9 place settings, and serving dishes haven't been out of the cupboard for 11 years.
I also have an extensive collection of cloth napkins that haven't seen the light of day or an iron for a long time either. And yes Josh, I have a collection of napkin rings!
Don't hurt me people but I don't do caffeine anymore and no one in their right mind in Miami drinks anything hot in the summer anyways.
I guess I am picky. I prefer good old thin paper plates to foam or plastic ones.

Real teacups for tea! I bought a Versace teacup (Medusa pattern, which is what my hair looks like in the morning)to celebrate a good review for a new book.
Don tracked down a Mason's Mandalay blue teacup for me as a gift. It was like one we bought at Harrod's years ago. Our cat broke broke that cup and we couldn't get a replacement. He sent clear to Wales for it.

You and me, Xena, on the hatred for plastic utensils. Over the years I've collected enough yard sales metal ones that as long as the pig-picking guest list stays under 125, I'm covered. But I don't own any china that doesn't get used although there is one set that only comes out 3 or 4 times a year and never when there are small children at the table.
Elaine, I knew Don was a keeper.
Don, thanks for that Corelle link.
We use only cloth napkins, too. I have some from Spain, Italy, and England. Napkins make a great souvenir and don't take up much room in suitcases. And since the whole point of napkin rings is to ID one's own napkin, all of our dozen or more rings are different. Houseguests get to choose their own.

Margaret, what a great question! A couple of my girlfriends and I went on a pottery studio tour in NC right around the time I read Uncommon Clay :) One friend bought me a fabulous pedestal-style mug that I only use for my Bengal Spice tea in the winter. The tea and the mug match. That's all I can say.

I am not a fancy dish person. But I slowly fell in love with my mother's everyday china during the last few months we spent together. There is something especially poignant about cooking something special for one's mother when she's ill, and those dishes - now in my cupboards - always bring back the joyful parts of that time. My husband adores the coffee mugs and uses them regularly.

I love coffee mugs and have a nice collection. I pick and choose among them depending on the time of day and my mood. Morning always calls for a large, substantial mug, whether it's my cool southwest-themed mug from Baker's Crust or my Xena mug (complete with her best lines embossed on the outside). Afternoons are for more delicate ware - a mug I bought for myself on that same trip to NC, one of the china coffee cups, or, occasionally, a very young-girly mug my sister bought my daughter for Easter many years ago.

Love reading everyone's stories . . .

I like to buy mugs when we go on trips. I want a good solid sturdy mug for my morning coffee & don't take my favorite mug-right now a Hawaiian mug. They always remind me of the places we have been.
We have 2 kinds of cereal bowls but I like the flatter one for my oatmeal.

Love this!
I must drink my coffee in a mug with straight sides. No flare. Flare bad. (Though good for you.)

Coffee in glass cups tastes terrible to me, but the worst are those old-fashioned green glass cups I sometimes still find in cafes. Coffee ALWAYS tastes watered down in those.

No drinks in metal containers, please.

I can hardly believe it, but I think those are my only dish/silver/glassware hang-ups.

Alan, if I go to Bouchercon next month, let's try to make time for a Scotch tasting, okay? (Still trying to make up my silly mind.)

Different napkin rings: Makes such good sense. Why don't they make sets of them like that, similar to the wine charms that help identify wine glasses?

Nancy P, when I was a kid my grandparents kept aluminum tumblers in the freezer, and when we visited we always got to have our RC Cola out of one. All different colors, so of course we had to fight over who got the red one or the blue one. :-) They also kept beer glasses in the freezer, for the gallon jug of draft beer my German grandfather walked to the beer garden every day to buy.

I prefer tea to coffee; however, I don't like to drink tea out of paper/styrofoam/insulated containers. I want a "real" cup or nice mug! Because of this, at work I drink coffee. I don't care what kind of container I use for my coffee. At one time I brought my own cup to work for my tea, but with such a tiny workspace I found that it was too easy for me to knock it over, and I didn't want to break something that I liked. (I am notoriously clumsy, and whenever anyone in the office drops or spills anything,they exclaim "I pulled a Deb!" Sigh...)

I have a set of dessert plates with matching teacups. These are the kind of plates that also serve as saucers - I'm sure there's a name for them but I don't know what it is. I've always just thought of them as "teaplates." Someone gave it to me as a houswewarming gift when I bought my condo. I like to use them for serving tea and goodies to guests. It annoys me when someone tells me "oh, don't bother getting those things out. It doesn't matter to me what you use." Well, it matters to ME, so you're getting the darn teaplates - is what I WANT to say, but I just inform them that "I like using this set."

Deb, that must be the Miss Manners gene. To people who wrote her and said they were uncomfortable at formal dinners, she responded "Comfortable is seated at a table with proper utensils and a linen napkin the size of dishtowel. Discomfort is chili dogs on a floppy paper plate with chili running down your wrist and nothing but thin paper napkins." (I'm with her! Esp. since she assures us that there's no such thing as a "fork patrol" out to bust us for using the wrong one.)

Have to confess that I do like thick milkshakes in a waxed cardboard cup. Reminds me of convertibles on warm summer nights.

I have some sentimental dishes, Mom got them free at the movies when she was a girl, which do tend to make food seem more special, and sundae tulips that make a small serving of ice cream seem big and indulgent, and I love tea from a tea pot, properly covered with a cozy . . .
I may have to find a flared-rim mug, just for fun!

I really hate drinking out of styrofoam also -- I carry hard plastic "go" mugs almost all the time, just to avoid the abomination of styrofoam.

I like to collect mugs with different designs. Both for tea or coffee uses or for display purposes. As for me it I look them as a symbol of every humans path as they're the partner in every wake up.

Espresso cup and matching saucer from Paris
Bone china teacup....ne sugar or I would use only silver

Hank, thanks for the shoutout about the mug.

Have not bought a paper napkin in 40 years.

And I thought I was the only one! My coffee comes out of a white Anchor Hocking Fire King cup (from my Mom who drank hers out of them until she started with the Corelle.) My tea from a thin china cup from the set of china we inherited from my husband's mom. Just so y'all know not everything we have came from someone else - we prepare in and eat "Swiss cold oatmeal" from newly purchased Pyrex galss containers - four cup with lid. Goggle it; that oatmeal is the easiest to prepare and to clean up. Thanks, Margaret for letting me know I am not weird!

Darn, Mr. Typepad ate my comment. Here is a condensed version of what I wrote:

I am also a Corelle person.

I have tall glass mugs for anything hot.

I finally bought really good flatware when I was 40.

Same comment, less verbiage . . .

Scotch in a martini glass? Yuck.
Do y'all remember when Corelle was introduced? They came with a guarantee. If you broke one, they'd replace it, even if you smashed it with a sledge hammer. I'm super careful with my Corelle tea cups and saucers, ones they don't make anymore. They can almost pass for porcelain.

I'm going to hijack my own posting because word is spreading through the mystery community that Enid Schantz ( Rue Morgue Press) has died and attention must be paid to such a loyal promoter of the genre.

Margaret I'm guessing your friend won't do that any more, that is unless he or she doesn't read your blog today. So maybe you should send out a link?

Had a big surprise from the library today - huge bag of Margaret Maron books on "tape." Excuse me, please, while I go read.

Oh dear, I meant the friend who gets to your must-use cup.

Anything I eat off the china my grandmother gave me when I got married tastes better to me. The teacups are dainty and perfect for a cup of Constant Comment which was her favorite tea.

She's been gone for a long time now, but when I drink that tea out of her cups, I can feel her smile somehow...

I am so bad that when I come to my friend's cottage at the coast every year - I look for certain bowls, cups, etc.. and have special ones at home also. I do like to use dishes/cups/bowls/plates that mean something to me though - I don't like to have something that just sits on a shelf to be looked at. Ergo - my dragonfly pottery I purchase from Lavaughn's Pottery in Beaufort that I use for my fresh fruit and thick Greek God's Traditional Yogurt with a touch of honey added. YUM.

My mom had wonderful pickle tongs -- with three pointed grabbers on each side. I want one, now that I'm making pickles . . .

Oh, dear, Enid! What a loss.

I missed the part about cloth napkins. Everyone (here) knows some of my history with them, as well as napkin rings. We even use them when we eat in front of the TV. With each person's own napkin ring, we know whose napkin is whose.

Reine, I knew what you meant.
Josh, I have 8 or 9 sets of napkins in all colors and textures, but the only ones I have to iron are the linen ones. I let those pile up till I plan an evening with a movie, then iron 2 or 3 doz. at a time. Soothing and painless. The other napkins just need folding, no wrinkles.
Storyteller Mary, it took me a long time to find a pair of tiny sterling tongs but worth it. I take my coffee black, but want sugar for my hot tea. And not just granulated, but cubes of Demerara, hence the need for tongs.

Great post! I have a mug very similar to the one pictured that I bought in Nova Scotia.

Tea tastes much better in a china cup or mug. I find it stays hotter. I also love to use my Fireking mugs. Very old, and now collectibles.

Nancy Lauzon

You nailed it totally in this post! I am particular about the cups I use for coffee, and have my favorite few set aside; my husband knows to bring me my coffee in the morning in one of them rather than a "regular" mug. I don't even quite know how to describe them, because no two are alike. Maybe that is what I like best about them!

I am also particular about plates and bowls, with specific ones I prefer using dependent on what is going in/on them. I am so glad I am not alone in this!

It's a combination of memories, the comfortable handle or coffee just tastes better in this mug than in the others. I really like to read this blog. I use for coffee, and have my favorite place.

My mother was a china painter, and I use her dishes for breakfast. When I'm bushwalking, I usually go ultra-light. But I usually bypass the light plastic cup to take my metal mug, with the cowboy hat and lasso painted on it. I found it at an auction or charity shop, I think, one time when I was back in America. It's chipped and funky, the 'real deal'.

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