Majolica Oyster plates are one of those love ’em or hate ’em tableware items.
The typical design incorporates six wells for the oysters and some of them have an additional little round well in the centre, originally for crackers, but we tend to use it for freshly grated horseradish.
I’ve been collecting them one at a time for a number of years, and was lucky enough to find more shortly after we acquired the Cape house, almost nine years ago.
I often display them in the hutch in our dining room, as you can see in this picture from Gien Oiseau Bleu.
Most of them have soft pastel shades of blue, turquoise and pink in the ridges between the oyster wells; one or two have coffee coloured glaze, too.
Oysters were not always the delicacy they are now considered to be. According to the Majolica International Society “Oysters have been consumed in Britain since Roman times. By the early 19th century, industrialized harvesting of oysters increased their availability such that over 124 million oysters were sold annually in London alone. Oysters were frequently used as a filler in other meat pies and pickled oysters became one of the staples of the diet of the poor. As Dickens’ Sam Weller remarks in The Pickwick Papers, “Poverty and oysters always seem to go together.” Times have changed, indeed!
My husband Glenn always jokes about what was going through the mind of the first person to try an oyster. Likely “yuck“…
The peonies were blooming, and the soft pink shades of Sarah Bernhard called to mind the similar tones of the oyster plates, and the delicate hue of the Fostoria’s June Pink Depression Glass.
Of course, the pewter oyster shaped open salts joined in. I got these years ago, complete with the little spoons. You can just see a pearl tucked into the narrow neck of the cellar on the front. It’s an enchanting little detail.
I love an excuse to use antique mother-of-pearl handled fish forks…
They had a day out from their fitted and lined case.
Pewter “spoon” napkin rings from Pottery Barn years ago surround August Grove double-sided napkins from Wayfair.
I got these a few years ago from Wayfair. The reverse side shows brightly coloured flowers and a pagoda, and I used them in the Wedgwood Shell-Edged Cream on Cream post. This year’s rendition, called Marilyn, features a blue floral reverse side..
Sarah Bernhardt peonies call to mind my mother’s admonition when we were being overly dramatic as children. She would compare us very unfavourably with the famous actress from the turn of the last century and say “Stop being a Sarah Bernhardt“. Despite that, I love these particular peonies; such a marvellous scent and soft ballet pink petals.
Enjoy the peonies while they last! The season is so short, and they’re such spectacular players in the floral scene. Their delicate appearance belies their tough-as-nails constitution, though they do not like being moved. Once settled in their surroundings, they’ll provide decades of blooming pleasure, but woe betide the gardener who keeps shifting them from place to place. The peonies will sulk and refuse to bloom at all.
I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.
I am waiting for my peonies to pop any minute now.
They are from my childhood home and are over seventy years old.
Oysters and peonies …. what a delectable combo!
I have always admired your
display of oyster plates.
Kathi, you must have very happy memories of those peonies. Seventy years old! That’s fantastic.
Enjoy them when they pop 🙂
I have been enjoying your posts. Love the oyster plates, I can just imagine how extra delicious eating oysters off of them would be! Have a wonderful day!
Hi Gary! How are things? Well, I hope!
So glad you’re enjoying the posts 🙂 The plates do work very well for oysters, but you have to be quick serving them or they get warm. I sometimes put them in the fridge to chill while we’re shucking the oysters. Then get them to the table, pronto!
Great to hear from you, my fellow contestant. 🙂
I love how the mother of pearl knives and forks blend in beautifully with the plates and of course the soft pink peonies all make it all come together. And the salt cellars with the pearl on them tops it all! Almost makes me want to try oysters again?
I should have said not only oyster plates, but oysters themselves are love ’em or hate ’em. 🙂 Not a fan, I take it?
I hope you’re enjoying your peonies, too, Maura.
Dear Ms. Kain,
Having lived, on and off, near or on the Chesapeake Bay I am very familiar with oysters as well as the plates and other collectibles associated with oysters. Yours are particularly lovely, set off by the peonies, June goblets, mother-of-pearl fish set, and charming oyster salts. But is your use of the galvanized chargers that makes the whole setting particularly appealing. You have such a talent for combining the commonplace with the extraordinary.
You of course are aware of the advisory to eat oysters only in months with names containing an R. In this neck of the woods peonies are not in season from September to April. They show up in May, just in time for Oyster breeding season.
Good day, Elizabeth! Always so wonderful to hear you chime in. It makes my day. Those galvanized chargers have proved very useful, somewhat to my surprise. The bland sheen and neutral colour seems to suit a lot of backgrounds.
I’m afraid we take our chances and hoover back oysters all summer on the Cape. I know, not the done thing, but May to August is when I spend most of my time near the briny sea.
Enjoy your weekend!
This may top the Downton Abbey dinner. Elegant choices. Thank you for inviting us for a peek. CherryKay
Thanks so much, Cherry Kay!
I love majolica anything, esp. oyster plates…are yours Portuguese or French? I’ve seen them with a longitudinally cut lemon as the centre well, too. You need some lovely oyster forks to go with those spectacular plates. I’m assuming the fish set is for the next course; it’s beautiful also. Something magic about silver and peonies. My peonies lasted until the thunderstorms beat them to the ground, although they were sturdily staked. The same storm flooded the coal cellar of This Old House…sigh. I too keep them on the table until they begin to drop their petals in sexy little piles, more Mae West than Sarah B.
Oh my, I’m so sorry about your flood. So distressing, isn’t it? I hope you didn’t have damage. Was it restricted to the coal cellar?
It turns out that the oyster plates are French. At least, that’s what a sticker on the back of one of the coffee- coloured one says 🙂 Apparently the person from whom I purchased it deemed it to be Haviland Limoges 1876-1880. As I picked up some of them individually, I can’t be positive, but they are all very similar. Some have the Haviland mark and others don’t.
I do have oyster forks, but in Canada, which makes little sense, I know 🙂 Why not have them where the oysters are most plentiful? Perhaps another set is in order, Beatrice. What a good idea!
My peonies here in the Cape are still hanging in, and some are still to bloom. Such a luxury of scent and beauty! I’m greedily clipping them and making bouquets for the house, and taking pictures inside and out.
Thanks for stopping in. Always lovely to chat with you!
I feel the same about the ancient gourmet who looked at a lobster and said hey I’m gonna eat that. Both oysters and lobsters came up in the world!!!
Isn’t that the truth? I love oysters, but only tried one on the recommendation of someone I trusted.