It had been years since I first read “Charlotte’s Web”. I’m guessing that I was 10 or 11. But when I read a photocopy of E.B. White’s letter to his publisher on the website lettersofnote.com, I suddenly had to re-read this lovely children’s book.
I think it is too bad that children are often corrupted by their elders in this hate campaign. Spiders are skilful, amusing, and useful, and only in rare instances has anybody ever come to grief because of a spider.
-E.B. White, letter to Ursula Nordstrom (editor at Harper & Row), 1952
It IS too bad, isn’t it? Happily, none of our elders tried to corrupt us with this hate campaign. (In fact when I was very little, I called most small creatures – including spiders – “hurtyous”, a short form of “it won’t hurt you”.)
As for spiders, I don’t remember anything but hearing that spiders are our friends. Of course, this was reinforced by the stunningly beautiful china teacup in the cupboard. The one with the hand-painted flowers and gold spider webs.
We were only allowed to drink from the spider cup on our birthdays. The cup was also brought out on other special occasions; we’d clamour for the priviledge of drinking our very very milky tea out of the cup.
E I get the spider cup!
B No! You got it last time!
P Hey!!! I want it!
C You’ll get it next time – on your birthday!
E I claimed it first. Can I have it? Please? Please? Please?
I don’t remember whether I managed to get to drink out of the spider cup more often or not when we were growing up. But NOW I do. Why? Because when we were downsizing our parents’ house, I somehow managed to get to bring the spider cup home. How lucky am I?
When we were dividing up the china, I also got to keep the bluebird cup. This was the cup that my great grandmother gave to my mother and her twin brother to drink their cocoa. Apparently, it was carefully shared. One afternoon, Mum would get the bluebird cup. The next afternoon, my uncle would get the bluebird cup.
You might be wondering why none of us argued over the bluebird cup. It’s because Mum kept it carefully hidden away so it wouldn’t get broken. This is the note in Mum’s handwriting that was placed in the bowl of the carefully wrapped cup in the back of the good china cupboard.
M’s Granny C
cup & saucer
M & her brother drinking cocoa or hot milk with
sugar when they stayed with her when they were little.
I really do love drinking tea out of a real cup. It just tastes better. Don’t you think? It tastes even better when it’s poured into a good china cup.
My favourite kind of black tea is Earl Grey. But not just any Earl Grey mix. I prefer Twinings or Ridgeways. (It turns out that President’s Choice is also okay.)
Tea has to be made correctly too. Here’s what I do: I spoon loose tea into a tea ball. Then I add boiling water to the teapot and swirl it around to warm it. I drain the teapot, put the teaball in and pour the just-boiled water overtop. The tea steeps for 5 minutes and then the teaball is removed. At that point it’s time to pour the tea.
When I was little, I always added lots of sugar and lots of milk to tea. Tea was just too bitter for my childish tastebuds. Now, however, I prefer to drink tea clear. So I don’t really have any opinion about whether to add the milk to the cup before or after the tea. And sugar? No thank you….
My other favourite tea flavours are English Breakfast and Darjeeling. Recently, some friends came back from England, bringing a box of Harrod’s Darjeeling tea – loose of course. I love the slightly smokey flavour of Darjeeling. It’s particularly good when drunk from the spider cup. And it’s equally good in the bluebird cup.
Mmmmmm! Tea as it should be! Would you like some?
Which cup are you clamouring for?
What made me suddenly think about the teacups? It was Jamie and Ilva’s post on their lovely blog, Plated Stories: Cups
Cups! Cups! Yes! I have cups. I have cups galore.
I do LOVE measuring!! I suspect we have as many cups as Jamie does – maybe more. The plastic ones used to be white but are now a dull yellowish white. I hardly ever use them any more except when all the metal ones are wet. And then there are the camping cups – even duller yellowish white – buried in the cooler. Alas, there is only one left of a set of fabulous looking hard red plastic cups that turned out to be oh so fragile. And there are two sets of stainless steel cups – both sets with 250ml in the cup rather than the US 240ml. But only two small pyrex cups. Then there are all the coffee mugs and regular china cups as well that we use to measure things like dried beans.
Of course, I’ve bookmarked Ilva’s wonderful looking recipe for tea flavoured jelly. But will we have any of this Darjeeling tea left? It tastes SO good in the spider cup. And almost better in the bluebird cup….