When I was a kid, in the 50s and 60s, people drank coffee and tea out of the small teacups with saucers that came with every set of dishes. And most adults drank coffee or tea with their meals (kids drank milk).
First married in 1969, all my sets of dishes over the years had cups and saucers with them, and for a while, we used them. Sometime in the 70s, though, I think, people started using mugs on a regular basis. You could get more coffee in one, and you didn’t have to bother with a saucer.
All the cups and saucers from all our sets of china sit regally in the cupboard or china cabinet waiting to be set on the table for the mealtime or after-meal cup of coffee—or they are tucked away in storage tubs because the cupboards are full of dishes we actually use. I think they feel lonely. We have, let’s see, six sets of dishes currently—and five sets of cups and saucers. The latest set of everyday dishes my husband bought before I met him has just roomy mugs, no saucers. It has joined the twenty-first century. But my first wedding china, his first wedding china, the family heirloom dishes from my grandmother, the set of dishes from my mother’s house, and the dishes I picked up used because they were like the ones my grandma used all have teacups and saucers. And a few decades ago I got a set of everyday dishes that have all gone the way of family living and hard use—all except the cups and saucers, which I have packed away.
Those pretty little cups don’t hold as much, so you either have to keep getting up to go to the coffeepot, or you have to have a genteel coffee server to put on the table for seconds (and then a bowl for sweetener and a pitcher for cream for those who use it, instead of pouring the cream from the container in the frig and adding sweetener directly from the cupboard). We are now a nation of mobile eaters. We drink our coffee on the run. If not china mugs we drink from disposable cups at the coffee shop or travel cups that fit in slots in our cars.
Every once in a while I think how nice it would be to have a cup of coffee or tea from one of those cups. But since I mostly drink my coffee at my desk, that seems a little silly, plus I’m always afraid that with all the clutter on my desk I—or the cat, who likes to wander the desk—will accidentally knock off the cup and destroy both it and my keyboard. So I drink from sturdier mugs without saucers to teeter in, each one collected separately, as gifts, or souvenirs of special places, as impulse purchases.
But still, I think about those pretty teacups and saucers.