Domestic Insight: Eggcups

When my brother and I would stay with my grandparents as children, we always looked forward to the breakfasts my grandmother would make for us. Often, that breakfast included soft-boiled eggs served in pretty eggcups with a little plate of ''toast fingers'' for dipping. I now have two of those eggcups in my kitchen cupboard and each time I look at them I remember those sunny mornings at my grandmother's dining room table. They are shown in the photo below.
They were made in the 1950s in England by Wood & Sons in the Clovelly pattern. My mother and my aunt also used these as children and they are very special to me.
Indeed, the collecting of eggcups is so popular today that it has been given its own name: pocillovy, which comes from the Latin pocillum ovi, meaning "a small cup for an egg." Eggcups have existed for centuries. The earliest known examples were unearthed at Pompeii but no individual has been credited with its invention. Their inception was no doubt due to the very difficult task of eating hot eggs cooked in their shells; they are unwieldy on plates and impossible to hold with bare hands. The design of the eggcup is brilliant in its simplicity and functionality, holding a cooked egg firmly upright. With the top of the egg shell removed, the egg can be scooped out with a small spoon and enjoyed at one's leisure.
Nearly every maker of dinnerware has designed a selection of eggcups. Wedgwood, Spode, Royal Doulton, Limoge, Fire King Jadeite, Catherineholm all produced (and still produce) eggcups. The materials used to make eggcups are just as varied as their makers: ceramic, porcelain, wood, plastic, glass and even silver. There are majolica eggcups, Fiestaware eggcups and ebony eggcups. Plenty for the pocillovist to choose from!
There are two basic kinds of eggcups: the single cup and the double cup. The single cup rests upon a decorative pedestal while the double cup can be inverted to offer two different cup sizes, either to accommodate a larger egg type, such as goose or duck, or to act as a serving dish for eggs that have been scooped out of their shells.
That the eggcup has been such a constant in the kitchens of families all over the world for centuries is not surprising. Their beautiful design and purpose ensures the eggcup will be around for a very long time to come. As long as there are eggs, there will be eggcups!
Click here to watch Martha discuss the history of eggcups.
Click here for a very comprehensive collection of links about eggcups and eggcup collecting.
Eggcups are not reserved for eggs only. They can serve many purposes, including acting as tiny vases. Spring flowers in pretty nosegays look lovely arranged in a collection of eggcups shown here. You could also use them to display spring bulbs or store small objects, such as safety pins, stamps or small pieces of jewelry, as shown below. (Photo Martha Stewart Living)
(Left photo by Skona Hem; Right photo by Midwest Living)
Three ironstone double eggcups date to the 1930s and '40s, shown top right. A novelty cup in treen (turned wood) is decorated with a cute painted face and holds a matching egg with a painted-on Orphan Annie hairdo. The single cup holding the blue egg has a plate attached and the one behind it is made of plastic and chrome with a removable lid. Silver luster stripes enhance a streamlined Art Moderne ceramic cup from the 1930s. (Photo Martha Stewart Living)
These beautiful Scandinavian, French and American examples of eggcups are extremely alluring with their darker tones. (The ivory-coloured eggcup shown at far left is actually made of white chocolate, formed in a rare eggcup chocolate mold.) The materials here include ceramic, porcelain, ebony and black glass. (Photo Martha Stewart Living)
In this photo a multitude of eggcup designs is shown, among them a milk-glass cup in the shape of a chick and a chick's head from the 1960s. The eggcup with the green stripe at the top is Japanese lusterware from the 1930s. The double-cup, far left, is by Wedgwood and top right is a cook-and-serve wire eggcup, also from the 1930s. My favourite is the eggcup with the two chatty peeps, made for the Fanny Farmer candy company. (Photo Martha Stewart Living)
During Victorian times, silver eggcups were extremely popular and were often given to children as Easter gifts or at Christenings. They are not very common today since the silver reacts to the sulphur of the egg, resulting in tarnish. Since silver is also a heat conductor, hot eggs would heat the eggcup, making it difficult to handle. As this photo reveals, however, chocolate eggs do very nicely in silver!


MaryJanice Davidson said...

I love your site; it's bookmarked and I visit it at least once a week. Just had to comment that I loved your eggcup post; I have a couple dozen of the l'il buggers and just love them (it mystifies my family). Keep up the good work on your gorgeous site!


Why, thank you Mary Janice!

Anonymous said...

My word. In all my forays into thrift, second hand, yard sale I have not seen egg cups. I guess I get there too late. Thank you for the motivation!! get up and out early.

Anonymous said...

As always thanks for the interesting story/blog.
It reminded me of a vacation I took with my family to Upstate NY. Daily we ate breakfast in the hotel, and every morning there was a simple breakfast of crispy toast, very yellow butter and 2 soft boiled eggs. I believe what intrigued a 6 year old was the egg cup, it was blue striped comprised of a large base with one egg kept warm hidden in it and one egg, sitting on top ready to be eaten.
Lastly I did watch Martha's tutorial on egg cups and once again it proves how entertaining and instructional she came make the simplest of subjects! Oh how I miss her original show.

Sent from my iPad

Rowaida said...

Beautiful resources and post Andrew, thank you
Hope you had a wonderful Easter with your family and loved ones.
Best wishes xx