Soufflenheim and its pottery

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France is obviously a very important part of my life.  My first view of it was through Paris and of Tours, living in the latter for an academic year of college.  I thought that I would always prefer Tours and the Valley of the Loire, but I was mistaken.  Although I frankly adore it all, I am particularly smitten by Alsace and Strasbourg.  So much so that when I am in Paris I have been asked if I am “from the East.”  They noticed that I was using some vocabulary and also had a trace of an accent from the eastern portion of France.

Having spent more than ten years of yearly two weeks or more stays in the environs of Strasbourg, I grew to love the area. I created many close friendships and had many a good time there.  Because of the nature of the exchange program I worked with, I lived each time I went to France, with a teacher/colleague who exposed me to all aspects of the Alsatian/French culture while treating me like a king.

I remember early on falling in love with the everyday dishes my friends would serve me on.  During the daily trips we would take in the area with students, one of the stops was always the lovely town of Soufflenheim.  While there we would visit the local pottery shops and get to see the making of it as well.  In my visits there I became enamored of the blue variety you see in my pictures.  I decided that we needed to have a set of it.  I even have my favorite potter’s studio of Philippe Lehmann.  One of the things I like best about it is the fact that there are variations in its production, they are not perfectly alike.  From potter to potter there are variations as well. 

Supposedly potters have been in the area since almost 400 B.C.  The local potters were given the rights to use the local clay from the nearby Haguenau forest by the Emperor Barbarossa.

The large dish/plate/tray with my name and Mary Kay’s was a gift from my dear friend, Martine, one of my teacher/colleagues who stayed with us and then we stayed with her family while in France.  That was quite the lucky stay since it was a Boulangerie/Pâtisserie Artisanale, which means that it was truly on top of the heap in terms of honors and they were well deserved ones at that.  Needless to say, we had the most amazing culinary time you could imagine soaking up all the amazing bakery items imaginable, all while visiting with a most amazing family.

Martine and my other friends, Nicole, Catherine, and Fabienne, spent much time with me and my family and exposed me to so many aspects of Alsace and Strasbourg.

One thing I found out right away is that the pottery from Soufflenheim could not be easily gotten in the U.S.  When I asked about shipping it, they told me that they just don’t!  I checked into shipping it myself and my friend, Martine, told me that I risked getting it back home smashed to bits because the postal workers were notorious for not treating packages well.  I therefore set about, in my stays there, to picking up plates, mugs, assorted pieces, bit by bit and transporting them on the plane as carry ons.   Little by little, mostly just by myself, but with family members when they were with me, I picked up enough pieces to have a set of fifteen dinner plates, salad plates, etc.  We use it when we feel the need for a “pick me up” because it always gives us pleasure using it.  This year we decided it is our official Thanksgiving set of dishes to be used with the dirylite cutlery we have.  It all looks amazing together.

In France, it is advertised as being safe in the dishwasher, oven, and microwave although we take more care with it than to do that.   The blue is the secondary color of Soufflenheim, I believe, the mustardy yellow being more popular.  What we purchased is pretty traditional in style; they have advanced to modernizing it a bit.

One of these days I need to visit the town of Betschdorf, the other famous Alsatian town for pottery.  I think it is beautiful as well, it is a gray/blue combo, but it just doesn’t have the pull for me that Soufflenheim’s does.

Soufflenheim is also known for being close to Sessenheim, a town where a young lady lived, who was pursued by Goethe.  I believe that Goethe was known to have visited Soufflenheim with the young lady as well.

One of the pictures has a piece that looks a lot like a Bundt pan.  It is the mold for a Kougelhopf, a special Alsatian cake that can either be made as a dessert type with some sweetness and almonds or a more savory apéritif type variety with cheese and bacon.

I know many people who have a piece or two of the beautiful Soufflenheim pottery, but don’t know of any other family beyond our own who has an entire set of it.

At the present time, one of our salad plates bit the dust, I think I may just have to go to France and pick up another!

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Cleaning that dirylite!

I mentioned the dirilyte in a previous post as being one of the many tasks this “Hausherr” had come up with for himself before the arrival of the Christmas holidays.  Originally I had set the Thanksgiving date as the goal for its cleaning.   I didn’t manage to pull that off.  Last week, I did about half of the polishing, today I completed it. 

The job of cleaning this dirylite was tough as I had purchased about half of the current set on e-bay.  The pieces I bought on e-bay were in serious need of cleaning as they were very tarnished.  I find that it doesn’t tarnish as badly or as fast as silver or silver plate but if it is allowed to tarnish, it is tough.  I am at the point where each time it has gotten easier.  I am sure the next time will require very little elbow grease.

The original set was bought by my paternal step-grandmother for my parents as a wedding present.  My family was very blue collar and my parents  were the first generation of American born.  I have not inherited a lot of beautiful pieces of this and that because there weren’t any to inherit, but I did inherit the dirylite when we moved my mom out of her house and I cherish it.  It is very unusual and very Art Deco in look.  The pattern we have, called Empress, is quite plain, something I truly appreciate.

Here is a quick explanation of the silverware and its history that used to be posted on the company’s web site found on this site: http://www.finishing.com/103/66-2.shtml
Dirilyte, as it is known today, was originally called Dirigold. The Dirilyte metal was originally developed by Carl Molin, a Swedish metallurgist, in 1914. While presenting his Dirigold items at the New York World Fair, Molin experienced such tremendous acceptance that he decided to return to Sweden to earnestly manufacture and develop the Dirigold line.

After weeks of planning and experimentation, the company started production in 1919. It was at this time that Mr. Molin was joined by Oscar Von Malmborg and the Dirigold Company was formed. At the conclusion of the Golhenburg Exposition in 1923, during which a large quantity of Dirigold was sold, the young company was approached by Swedish-Americans who proposed that the company move to America.

In 1924, Mr. Von Malmborg moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota and formed a selling company, while Mr. Molin stayed in Orebor, Sweden and continued manufacturing the golden-hued tableware. In 1926, the decision was made to manufacture the Dirigold product in America.

1935 saw the Federal Trade Commission bring suit against the company, charging that the “Dirigold” name was misleading to the public, as there was no gold in the product. As a result, the company was forced to change its corporate and product name. The company was renamed The Dirilyte Company of America, and the product was called Dirilyte.

Dirilyte is a handcrafted item with the warmth and beauty only hand work can achieve. The pieces are individually finished by skilled craftsmen with years of experience.

Dirilyte metal is a very hard and durable bronze alloy, much harder than sterling silver. Its rich, warm golden color extends all the way through each piece. Dirilyte flatware, holloware, and awards are solid. There is no plating used. Production of flatware and holloware stopped in 1986.

Alfred M. Baggett
– Memphis, Tennessee

Traditions are oh so important in our family and this silverware is part of that scenario.

Grandma Bori’s candy dish

As we are approaching Christmas, I always start thinking about people who have been important in my life.  They are so missed and were such an important part of our family traditions. 

I was just questioned on Grandma Bori on Facebook  yesterday;  my  cousin’s wife asking if I had the infamous recipe for Grandma Bori’s walnut torte.  I do not and I wish I did.  I was the youngest of all the grandchildren and my grandmother always made this torte for birthdays.  The running thought among the cousins was that this cake was the recipe of Satan, a cake that everyone just didn’t like and never wanted to see again.  Not that my grandmother was evil, it is just that this cake was hated.  Rumor even has it that when my cousin Babs threw some of the cake into the pond in her parents’ back yard, that the goldfish died!  I had not experienced the cake as much as everyone else and actually liked it, but my grandmother had gotten the message that this was not to be a cake in her great cooking repertoire.

Thoughts of the cake made me think of my grandmother and the recent sighting in the crawlspace of something that always reminds me of her. 

I crawled in and pulled out the candy dish that she always placed on a cocktail table in her living room.  I opened the box and I took a picture of it.  It is one of those objects I have never known what to do with.  I cannot part with it because of what it represents.  Grandma was a very generous woman, always slipping a five dollar bill or more in my hand and/or pocket, often unbeknownst to my grandfather.  He was generous but not like she was.  Her candy dish was always full, never did we open it up to find it lacking in tasty European candies, generally the  candies were filled with jelly: rectangular ones from Eastern Europe or the raspberry candies that tasted oh so good!

My biggest regret is that my kids only know of her through my conversation about her or the wonderful Hungarian dishes she made.  They will never know the person who seemed to care for me more than anyone else in the family in such a special way. 

Meanwhile, that brings me back to my omnipresent question, “What the heck do I do with this candy dish?”  Any ideas?