|A single Anglo-Irish sweetmeat urn and cover|
Initially we focused on buying articles for the table, such as salts. As our confidence grew and we became more knowledgeable we added vases and other vessels. Several years ago we splurged and bought a pair of fine Regency cut glass candlesticks hung with prisms. More recently, we've added a number of footed urns with covers, known as sweetmeats.
|The same sweetmeat, with cover off|
When we bought the first of these vessels, the single one shown at the outset of this story, I wasn't exactly sure what sweetmeats were. I knew that it was an old-fashioned term for tasty little delicacies, but I didn't know of what sort. I wondered, were sweetmeats made with actual meat, like early mince-meat recipes? And if so, were they really sweetened? The thought of eating candied bits of meat served from these pretty glass containers was rather repulsive to me.
|A pair of Anglo-Irish sweetmeat urns with covers|
Since then I've learned that the "meat" in sweetmeat is an old English word for "food," and that my forebears did not (as a rule) eat candied meat bits as a treat at the end of a meal. Whew!
Sweetmeats are candied fruits and confectionaries, served both dry or suspended in syrups. The term is rather broadly encompassing of what constitutes a sweetmeat, but it usually does not include chocolates. I believe the covered urns we have at Darlington House would most likely have held candied fruit in syrup. Put another way, they are Regency-era covered candy dishes.
The urns lend a certain glittering drama to a room when displayed on a sideboard or table. They are fairly substantial in size, measuring between twelve and thirteen inches high with their covers on, and are quite dazzling when caught in the sun's rays.
Have we ever used them for their original purpose, you might ask, to serve sweetmeats? No, not yet, but I am confident that we shall one day. I once suggested to Boy that we fill them with green and red M&Ms at Christmastime, as a joke.
He didn't think it was funny.