They are ramekins.
They were popular in the 1950s. Some food trend or other, like square plates in the 1990s. Then, like square plates, everyone threw them out and they could be found in opportunity shops and flea markets for next to nothing, or landfill completely free of charge.
Eventually, like most things from the 1950s except me, they gained a kind of retro cool. Whether people actually use them or just display them in the 1950s Parker cherrywood lowboy is another matter.
I once had a set of round ones in highly glazed brown, with lids and flared cylindrical handles. I used these often for French onion soup, a purpose for which they were well suited. They were robust enough for the rustic dish, held exactly the right amount (soup bowls are never big enough and what else do you use?) and because they were heat-proof you could put them under the griller to melt the cheese over the baguette floating in the soup. The set disappeared somewhere along the way. I probably packed them off to St Vincent's, deciding rashly that I didn't need ramekins, or anything that was brown and highly-glazed, or even French onion soup, any more.
The only ramekins I have now are rounded-off square in various pastel colours with thumb handles, and are branded 'Boyd' and 'Raynham' via indented signatures underneath. Not big enough for soup, but I use them for hot peanut chili sauce in which you can dip sticks of celery, cucumber, red capsicum or carrot as an appetiser on summer nights while the barbecue heats up.
Anyone else still have ramekins?
This post was inspired by The Rameking, a blog I found recently, and which I have added to the links bar. The Rameking is:
Worldwide Headquarters of the Australian Studio Art Ramekin, that piece of Australiana that has almost disappeared from our lives and tables. How many of you Baby Boomers have sat in front of a warm fire in winter, eating tinned spaghetti from a ramekin? In the period between the World Wars, and in the decades after, many famous artists made ramekins. They continued until cheap imports and copies almost killed them off in the 1970s. See them here in all their faded glory.Go over and visit Mr Rameking, and tell him Kitchen Hand sent you. (And no, I have never eaten spaghetti from a ramekin.)
*Image here (scroll down) courtesy of Mr Ramekin.