Friday, September 11, 2015

IT'S NOT THE WINE ITSELF...

…it’s about the wine coaster.
          I remember this one from my grandmother’s dining room table.
Dinner could be formal there: I had to wear a dress, white ankle socks (that always sagged) and black strapped shoes--remember Mary Janes? I knew which fork to use, which spoon; had a napkin as big as a pillowcase and my very own wine glass (never used, of course, but at my place, nevertheless!)
Eating dinner with the adults was pretty boring – I couldn’t understand much of the conversation – I much preferred to eat in the kitchen with Mrs. Sagan.

But, I digress; back to the wine coasters…
She had three or four of them for her two, fine stoppered cut glass decanters with an H (for Howell) etched on the side of the bowls; the decanters themselves were lovely, but I was more fascinated with the stoppers than with any other part of this arrangement.

        
The coasters were  sterling silver with wooden bottoms. At any dinner, there might be one or two on the table—one for a decanter of red wine, one for white—and they prevented drips/stains on the tablecloth. They also kept the decanters apart to prevent chipping the crystal.
          The term “coaster” didn’t make any sense to me until I learned that coasters with wooden bottoms were slid across the tablecloth to diners who needed refills; after-dinner coasters had felt backings so that those who lingered after the dinner had been cleared and the table cloth removed, could slide decanters back and forth across the bare tabletop without scratching the surface.
          Old coasters—made in the 17th and 18th centuries, were less than five inches in diameter; when broader-bottomed cut glass decanters came into fashion, decanters became larger, too. In huge dining rooms, coasters sometimes had actual wheels to make it easier to slide the length of enormous tables – they were called wine carriages!


I have this single felt-backed coaster and one of the decanters. I have no idea where the others might be; I’m hoping they’re with second or third cousins, somewhere, gracing their tables.

20 comments:

  1. Oh have I missed SS where I can learn so much! So that's why they are called coasters! Silly I never thought of it. Many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never thought of it either, Barbara -- when you think of it, it's pretty obvious, but some of us can be a little slow on the uptake. I'm one of them; you're clearly another!

      Delete
  2. We have one or two of those silver elegant wine coasters, presented to my husband as business gifts I think. We use them on the Christmas dinner table, but only with bottles. We should use decanters but we only entertain very rarely and with family we are never that formal!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, Jo -- I draw the line at decanters, too! And I use my wine coaster only when I want a sense of formality--which is nearly never.

      Delete
  3. Who knew the coasters, coasted. I have new respect for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too, Helen. But if I'd thought about it long enough, it might have made sense. After all, I still use coasters under drinks on tables that might be damaged; I don't, though, push 'em around on the tabletop!

      Delete
  4. I remember formal dinners just like that from my own childhood – right down to the white socks that always rolled down my skinny ankles.
    We've got wine decanters in the cupboard, but I can’t remember the last time we used them, these days it’s a bottle of wine on a tablemat, rather sad when you think about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, those awful socks! Did you have Mary Janes, too? I don't miss those decanters and those endless formal dinners, but I do miss the sense of civility that went along with them...

      Delete
  5. Nice to be reminded of the formalities of dining but life is so much more casual these days. Th silver coasters are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  6. They are pretty -- I use mine sometimes for vases of flowers, and it always looks great...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Lovely family memories of formal dining, and, yes I remember wearing those white ankle socks and Mary Jane shoes, and my "best"dress with a sash. I too never knew the origin of "coasters"' so thank you for the information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm jealous, Sue -- I never had a sash!

      Delete
  8. I learn something from every Sepia Saturday. I was going to write something about a wine bottle basket made of cane that my parents used to have....only they used it as a peg basket. I looked for ages in stores for a peg basket like the one we had at home. One day the penny dropped that it wasn't a peg basket...it was, in fact, something else entirely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A basket? That's a great idea -- never seen one! It's pretty amazing how different places/cultures handle similar situations...coaster, basket, etc. Same difference!

      Delete
  9. Beautiful objects but little used these days I fear. We have decanters presented as gifts, but lacked the coasters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see them every now and then in antique stores -- and the designs are so different. I've never seen a big one -- one of the "carriages" though. I'd like to.

      Delete
  10. I did not grow up in a wine-drinking family, so the wine coasters are new to me. I enjoyed learning about the wood and felt bottoms and the reason they are called "coasters." I have a glass wine coaster - not antique though and it doesn't "coast"- that I'm grateful for when serving red wine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hardly use them for their original purpose, Wendy -- except when I have people for dinner who enjoy drinking wine -- but I find my grandmother's wine coaster so beautiful that I dream up other uses for it...

      Delete
  11. Thank you for teaching me something interesting. I always think of Jack Lemmon in the Odd Couple when I think of coasters. Have to keep the glasses from leaving little white rings on the table.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And wasn't there some Household Hint for removing those white rings? Was it something to do with mayonnaise?

      Delete