Sunday, November 14, 2010

“At the punch-bowl's brink,

let the thirsty think, what they say in Japan: first the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man!” ~Edward Rowland Sill

The entertaining season tends to bring out the infamous punch bowl. There are 2 theories about its origin. It could be a short for "puncheon" which refers to a wooden cask that holds 70 to 80 there we are talking about some serious punch!

The other theory is that the word punch derived from the Hindustani word "panch" which is defined as "five". This traces back to the "rule of five" that states that a punch must have at least five ingredients: sweet, sour, bitter, weak, and alcoholic.

In my research, I found a poem that Samuel Mather (son of Cotton Mather), sent in 1757 to a friend with a box of lemons:

You know from Eastern India came
The skill of making punch as did the name.
And as the name consists of letters five,
By five ingredients it is kept alive.
To purest water sugar must be joined,
With these the grateful acid is combined.
Some any sours they get contented use,
But men of taste do that from Tagus choose.
When now these three are mixed with care
Then added be of spirit a small share.
And that you may the drink quite perfect see,
Atop the musky nut must grated be.

Even if you do not make punch, these large bowls make wonderful salad bowls or decorative centerpieces filled with a variety of ornaments.

I found an ironstone punch bowl at auction the other week. I have never seen one outside of the books, so it was a neat surprise. It is showing its age...130 years or so...but a real treasure for an ironstone lover.
Many of the Victorian bowls are pressed glass. You don't always find the cups or the stands with them, but I never pass them up, and, in today's current marketplace, they are incredibly reasonably priced.
The punch bowls came with either a pedestal to elevate the bowl on the table or a large underplate where the bowl would rest in the centre. Each set came with a set of punch cups. If a pedestal was used, the cups were hung around the bowl using metal hooks. If the punch tray was used, the cups were displayed around the base of the bowl resting on the tray. So, for those who get a little punchy...not to mention paunchy around the holidays, at least you know folks have been punchy for centuries!


molly- See you downtown said...

The bowls are lovely. I have over 100 cups and not a single bowl, something I should definately rectify. Thanks.

Secrets said...

You are like a punch bowl expert ;)
Makes me want to go out and buy one and add my 5 ingredients.