…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.