Tureens have long symbolized elegant dining. But they were not an important part of a dinner service until the 1700s when silversmiths and potters made magnificent tureens to please royal patrons.
Augustus III, King of Poland during the 18th century, owned a set of ornately designed silver-gilt tureens.
At their wedding in 1825, Prince Frederick of the Netherlands and Princess Louise of Prussia acquired an impressive tureen decorated with bands of colorful flowers and scenes of Berlin, as part of a 350-piece dinner set.
Earlier, Queen Charlotte and King George III of England gave the Queen's brother, who was also Princess Louise's great-granduncle, a rococo dinner service with a tureen of rich blue and gold on white Chelsea porcelain embellished with exotic birds.
Queen Elizabeth II owns most of this service, which is kept at Buckingham Palace.
The word ''tureen'' comes from the Latin ''terrinus,'' meaning earthen, which referred to a large covered vessel used for the serving of soup. And to serve countless soups, tureens were made of silver, pewter, Sheffield plate, pottery, and porcelain.
Some of the most colorful ones are of faience - a tin-enameled earthenware, at times called Delft, depending on the region of origin.
Many faience tureens were glorified with finials shaped like flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Of particular appeal are those in the form of animals, fish, flowers, and vegetables.
In the early 1800s, the English Chelsea factory made a figural tureen described in their catalog as ''a fine tureen in the form of a rabbit as big as life and an oval dish.''
English potters copied the lovely swan tureens issued during the mid-1700s at the Meissen factory in Saxony.
Silver tureens were once triumphs of a dinner service. Catherine the Great of Russia owned a magnificent Russian silver tureen shaped like a ship.
It can be conjectured that when soup was ceremoniously brought to the table in this tureen, palace guests enduring the chill of Catherine's palace eagerly welcomed the soup and fervently hoped it was steaming and not a cold borscht.
Today figural tureens are being reproduced, and make charming table appointments that add immeasurably to the pleasures of eating soup.
Owning a tureen, whether a modern reproduction of a figural one or merely a plain white ironstone piece, contributes greatly to the serving of steaming soup on a chilly day or in the summer after an ocean swim.
This soup includes the goodness of a variety of garden-fresh vegetables. Ratatouille Soup 2 slices of bacon 1 eggplant, cubed 1 9-inch zucchini, cubed 1 pepper, chopped 3 slices onion 4 tablespoons tomato sauce 1 can cream of mushroom soup
In skillet fry bacon. Remove from heat and drain. Saute onion slices in bacon fat until transparent. Add and stir-fry eggplant, zucchini, pepper.
When vegetables are tender, add tomato sauce. Blend mixture in blender and add crumbled bacon slices and mushroom soup. Reheat. Serves 4. Cream of Broccoli Soup
Cook 1 small bunch of broccoli and save 1/2 cup of cooking liquid and combine with 1 can of cream of potato soup. Put mixture in blender. Heat. Serves 4. Zucchini-Tomato Soup 3 9-inch zucchini 1 can beef consomme, undiluted 1 No. 2 can tomatoes 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1 tablespoon sugar
Cook zucchini in consomme until tender. Blend with all other ingredients in blender. Serve hot.
All of the above soup recipes are enhanced when garnished with a dollop of sour cream and parsley.
A bowl of sour cream, prepared according to the following recipe, and a small bowl of sprigs of parsley may be passed after the soup has been served from a tureen. Herbed Sour Cream 1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 teaspoon dill 1 pinch tarragon 1 pinch minced onion
Mix ingredients and let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour so mixture will absorb flavor of herbs. Primarily Parsnip Soup 6 or 7 parsnips, medium size 5 carrots 4 celery stalks 1 onion, large 1 can consomme 1 can chicken broth 4 quarts water Salt, to taste
Chop vegetables. Bring consomme, chicken broth, and 2 quarts water to a boil. Add vegetables and 2 more quarts water. Simmer until vegetables are tender.
Some seasonings may be used to vary the taste of the soup, either individually or combined: parsley, pepper, rosemary, bayleaf, or your own special bouquet garni.
Serve hot from a tureen.