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Crockery is a broad term that is used to refer to various types of tableware. This would include any type of dishware that is used at the table during mealtime. Crockery can include all forms of dishes such as plates, as well as serving platters, bowls, and dishes that are used to hold condiments, such as a gravy bowl.
Traditionally, crockery is applied to any type of dinnerware that is made from natural materials. This could include plates, cups, and serving dishes that are composed of clay that has been fired and prepared for use on a recurring basis. While technically this would also include fine china and porcelain dinnerware, crockery was usually a term applied to dishes that were intended for use for more casual situations, such as a simple family meal.
Purists tend to also omit some of the modern types of dinnerware from the definition of crockery. Plastic dishes, or dinnerware that is manufactured using other synthetic materials that make the dishes difficult to break may not be considered proper crockery, even though they are usually intended for regular use in a casual setting. However, as these forms of dishware have become more common in many households, their acceptance as meeting the basic definition of crockery has become more common.
In general, crockery tends to have a simple and somewhat utilitarian design. While there are exceptions, crockery usually features little or no decoration. The emphasis is on holding up well to repeated use. Crockery can be safely loaded into a dishwasher, or washed by hand. This type of dishware usually does not require any special type of handling, as the construction is durable enough to hold up to repeated usage.
Older versions of crockery, such as the cups, saucers, and plates that were once in common use in many diners, tend to be a little heavier than more formal types of hollowware, such as fine china. While heavier and simple in design, it is possible to set an attractive table using this type of old time crockery, since the simplicity of the designs make it possible to use the various dishes to great effect with all sorts of accessories.
When it comes to traditional crockery, you can tell much about a region by the crockery it produced. Local materials and processes went into traditional crockery (and still does), and the items produced were unique to where they originated. Fascinating stuff.