A Kingfisher in the Kitchen…

Vintage 1950’s Kingfisher bird illustration by Athos Menaboni

Some time ago, in a dusty section of an old antique shop, I found a broken down book full of beautiful portrait prints. The book was getting ready to be heaved into a rolling bin headed for the recycling center, along with many other books that had been damaged by a recent leak in the shop. Still on the shelf, but tagged for recycling, the fate of the bird book didn’t look good.  On the outside, it didn’t have much going for it. The spine was shredded, the cover splotchy with water stains, the dust jacket missing. But on closer inspection, with a flip through its interior pages, a little miracle had occurred. The bird bookplates inside had somehow escaped the water leaks. The images were bright and colorful and perfectly preserved. The birds fluttering among the pages, each depicted in their own natural setting with their mates and their foliage, were too beautiful to be tossed away.

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Illustrated by Southern botanical artist Athos Menaboni in the 1950’s, these bookplate prints featured a whole aviary of birds. Many were familiar… geese, hawks, doves…but some were new like this handsome duo…

I liked their spiky head feathers immediately and thought they might be part of the woodpecker family. But I was wrong. Do you know what kind of birds they are? Here are a few hints…

  1. They LOVE to fish.
  2. They come from one of the few bird species where females are more colorful than males
  3.  A grouping of them is called is called a crown.
  4. They have big heads and even bigger hairdos, not for vanity, but to accentuate their superior skills when diving for dinner.

Could you guess? Do You know it?! If you said the Eastern Belted Kingfisher then you are correct (and a wonderful birder).  The kingfishers capabilities at mealtime know no equal. They are one of the best fishermen on the planet and can gather up enough aquatic life to get a fish fry started in a jiffy. Industrious, talented and always ready to get to work on planning the possibilities of their next meal, kingfishers are wonderful kitchen role models, happiest when engaged in the food options around them. See their expressive personality in this fun two-minute video…

Ever since  I learned about these remarkable little birds I have been on the lookout for more of their images and information. Serendipity came calling the other day when I found a vintage 1970’s paper bird model of a kingfisher that had never been assembled.

How exciting! A new craft project – our very own paper kingfisher for the kitchen. Last Sunday, Bradley, the Vintage Kitchen’s resident builder of all things fun and functional, got to work assembling the new paper bird. The whole thing took 4 hours to come to life, but we shortened all that time down to just a 27-second video so that you could see how it all came together too…

Now the Vintage Kitchen has its own little symbol of industry, talent and enthusiasm flying around the kitchen and watching over all our cooking endeavors.

Usually, the birds most symbolic of the kitchen are chickens, roosters, turkeys and pheasants but I recommend the kingfisher any day. Aesop once said it is not only fine feathers that make fine birds. The effervescent kingfisher proves just that. Even though they are beautiful their abilities are even more so.

Look for more kingfisher magic coming to the shop this fall and winter. In the meantime, find their botanical print here along with others from the rescued bird book here. 

May your next cooking endeavor be as joyful and as enthusiastic as any kingfisher’s catch. Cheers to the birds who make our culinary spirits fly!

Set A Contemporary Vintage Table

For years now, Ms.Jeannie has been collecting bits and pieces of antique china to use alongside her everyday dishes. These everyday dishes are as basic as basic can be: white, plain, unadorned. The only bit of flair they possess is that they were made by an Italian plateware company. This makes the plates oval shaped instead of round and the coffee cup saucers are offset to accomodate a slice of biscotti alongside your coffee cup. Other than that they are strictly ordinary.

Having said that Ms. Jeannie discovered one day, while cleaning out her china cabinet, that when she paired these ordinary day plates with her vintage china treasures, her whole table setting instantly hummed with it’s own sort of individuality and surprise. The ordinary looked extraordinary and the mis-matched patterns looked marvelous next to each other because they contained a lot of similar colors.

So Ms. Jeannie started experimenting and was delighted to discover a very broad range of different decorating options when it came to pairing vintage with contemporary.

This is an example of how you can set a contemporary vintage table by combining contemporary dishes with vintage china.

If you look closely there are 10 different plate patterns/designs in this setting. They all work together because they have two themes tying them together: birds and green leaves.

The unexpected vermillion color in the napkin also helps tie together all the warm colors without looking forced or too matchy matchy.

The square bird dish is actually a contempoary soap dish, but has been repurposed to act as a small bread plate or a drink coaster here. It also matches the colors of the black and white toile-looking hunt plate as well as the antique orange, black and green floral bread plate from the 1930’s.

The colors in the antique sugar bowl match the colors found on the vintage bird water glasses. The crazing on the sugar bowl also matches the faux antique patina on the contemporary white salad plate from the Todd English Collection.

You can see here just by adding or subtracting pieces you can get different effects from your table display:

Ms. Jeannie is drawn to three things when it comes to scouting vintage china. She loves anything made out of old English ironstone, anything that contains the color green in its design and anything that contains crackling or crazing marks. So her collection has thousands of ways that it could displayed together since they have those three characteristics in common. You can start your own vintage china collection based on color, shape, time period or region for your own unique look.

This table arrangement was made up of the following pieces:

1 antique sugar bowl (circa early 1900’s)

1 Contemporary ceramic soap dish from Creative Co-op

2 contemporary salad plates from the Todd English collection

1 contemporary fox hunt salad plate from Corona

1 antique bread plate from T.S.&T Paramount Ivory circa 1930’s

2 vintage bird beverage glasses circa 1950s

2 vintage coffee cups (swirl pattern) from Hitkari Potteries

1 contemporary coffee mug from the Todd English Collection

1 vermillion colored cloth napkin from Pottery Barn

Start your vintage tableware collection with this curious antique sugar bowl for $14.00

Curious Antique Sugar Bowl – Pink & Yellow Rose Pattern from msjeannieology