Egg cups: The rest of the story

egg cups

Yesterday I was thinking about egg cups and other items that have become lost in the hustle and bustle of today’s technological world.

I decided to read up on egg cups and other items – like the hand-cranked rotary beater. Remember them? If you’re not inclined to dwell on passing novelties, you may want to skip this post. I thought it fascinating.

My mother had one of these beaters. Do they still make them?rotary egg beater

Back to egg cups. I once owned four porcelain ones, but they are hiding somewhere. Now, Norma has offered me hers. (Side note: Blogging has many unexpected surprises. Norma offered me her egg cups and Yvonne Thaxton dropped by yesterday and left me a gift certificate for a manicure. She read on our blog how I’d never had a professional one, and I guess she felt sorry for me.)

LAMINATED EGG CUPS The earliest images of egg cups appear in a Turkish mosaic dating from 3AD and examples were found among the ruins of Pompeii from 79AD. The date of the advent of the egg cup in England is uncertain but we do know that Elizabethans roasted eggs and in 1690 a certain Lady Harvey referred to “a silver egg thing” in a thank-you letter.

Wooden cups were probably made before silver ones but are very difficult to date. In the early 18th century, wealthy people used silver egg cups engraved with the owners coat of arms with matching spoons and from 1743 the less well off could buy them made from the cheaper Sheffield plate. Throughout the 18th and into the 19th century pottery and porcelain egg cups featured as only part of a traditional dinner service and would have been of matching style, color and pattern.

Silver cups made in the 19th century were often gilded inside. This was to prevent the sulfur from the egg from staining the silver which some say affect the flavor. At this time ‘egg’ spoons tended to be made of horn, ivory or bone.

In France, Louis 15th helped the popularity of egg cups as people bought an eggcup to try and emulate their king as he was reported to be able to “decapitate an egg at a single stroke.”

Egg cups were so common and were not considered anything “special” at this time so they were often chipped or broken. This explains why intact 19th century designs are so hard to find.

The earliest examples of Victorian egg cups often come in sets of four, six or even twelve as breakfasts had become gastronomic feasts by this time and families of more than 10 were commonplace. egg6-3.jpg (18801 bytes)

An advertisement for Harrods in 1911 shows a set of six electroplated nickel silver eggcups on a stand with matching spoons for $1.75, today in good condition these would cost around $320. No wonder they went out of style.So see? Egg cups are a better investment than your 401 K.

The double egg cup became very popular in 1930’s, these being used to eat a boiled egg in the small end as usual and the larger end is for the egg to be chopped, mixed with salt and pepper and eaten with a spoon or fork.egg7-b3.jpg (15486 bytes)

During the 1900’s the huge growth in railway travel launched a boom in the holiday souvenir trade and potters were quick to supply cheap egg cups bearing a black & white or sometimes a full color scene of the sea-side resort or town. Probably the most well known of the souvenir ware makers were Goss of Stoke on Trent who produced somewhat better quality cups up to 1930. These cups had a towns’ coat of arms and name and were not just limited to popular destinations and seaside resorts but many inland towns were featured. These souvenirs sold at the time for pennies.egg4-1.jpg (38471 bytes)

Also popular around this time was what is known as Devon ‘motto ware’. These cups usually have a motif of a cottage , crowing cockerel or seagull with sayings such as ‘fresh today’ or ‘waste not, want not’. Not surprisingly vast quantities of egg cups were being made to appeal to children to encourage them to eat more eggs and cups were decorated with pictures of favorite characters from children’s books, and comic strips such as ‘Felix the Cat’, Bonzo and Mickey Mouse and later came Muffin, Sooty, the Muppets and there has even been a set of TeleTubbies produced.

Novelty cups are probably the most diverse of all cups, chickens (being a common shape), birds, fish, mammals and the rest of the animal kingdom has been well represented over the years. Humans have not escaped attention and have been produced from the Edwardian ‘face’ cups with the monocled ‘Duke’ being very popular and the smiling or crying children’s faces up to the more recent soldiers, sailors, policemen and of course politicians such as Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock.

But in the new millennium, the egg cup has fallen from favor – at least among my circle. Probably because we don’t know how to decapitate the egg to get to it. Or maybe because the egg itself has been maligned so often for health reasons.

I haven’t even seen an egg cup in years. But I’m going to be on the lookout for them. Just because. They are cute and remind me of a gentler time.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Here are some interesting Egg Facts:

– An egg shell may have as many as 17,000 tiny pores over its surface; through them, the egg can absorb flavors and odors; storing them in their cartons helps keep them fresh.
– Some chickens lay blue, green or pink eggs.
– White shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and ear lobes; brown are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes.
– Yolk color depends on the diet of the hen; natural yellow-orange substances such as marigold petals may be added to light-colored feeds to enhance colors.
– Occasionally, a hen will produce double-yolk eggs; it is rare, but not unusual, for a young hen to produce an egg with no yolk at all. I got an egg just the other day with two yolks. I was afraid to eat it.
– A hen requires 24-26 hours to produce an egg; 30 minutes later, she starts over again.
– It takes 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch.
– Chickens molt (shed their feathers) once a year and grow new ones.
– Chickens do not lay eggs when they are molting.
– Roosters crow all day and night long, not just in the morning.
– About 240 million laying hens produce approximately 5.5 billion dozen eggs per year in the U.S.
– If an egg is accidentally dropped on the floor, sprinkle it heavily with salt for easy cleanup.
– Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain Vitamin D! Ah-HA! See there, it’s time to bring back the egg, and the egg cup!

4 thoughts on “Egg cups: The rest of the story

  1. What the heck do you mean by “my MOTHER had one of those”?? I have one myself!! Oh, gosh–what am I confessing here?? My grandmother beat her eggs with a little flat wire thingy that looked a little like a miniature tennis racket, only more oblong. Remember those?

  2. No! But I’d like to have one.You still have a rotary beater!!!? So where can I buy one. It’s way to much trouble to plug up an electric mixer which is why I don’t bake much.

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