setting the table

It’s a rare meal when I don’t set the table. Sometimes we’ll have a picnic of pizza on the living room floor, or a buffet without chairs around the table, but generally there is a minimum of table setting: a dish at each place, a glass, a napkin.

Most times I’m not really nuts about theses things, rather I feel that I’d like to enjoy the pieces I have, so I choose to put them out nicely. But then, the details.

I often choose an old teacup for coffee; it’s nicer than a clunky mug and I’m only having an espresso with some milk. And if there’s oatmeal for breakfast, my little ones like to have the small pitcher for milk on the table so they can help pour their own milk. Already the table looks nice. It makes the coffee and oatmeal more enjoyable.

If there are olives or little marinated things from the antipasto bar for lunch or dinner, we put them out in small dishes and flower bowls. Sometimes I put hummus out in its tub, but I think that’s the exception. That, and sour cream on taco night.

At Christmas I was trying to reconcile what I feel is my style, with what dishes, napkins, tablecloths I have. What was ‘fancy’, yet still felt like me to use it? Many items have been passed down over the years, and even though I like them, they’re not necessarily what I’d choose if I had money to spare at the store. And what to use at the next day’s dinner?

The first night I used a heavy white table cloth, but put a long stretch of raw silk with rough ends down the middle of the table. It’s actually a fine scarf, but isn’t used and it suited the table. Then a few candles: some tealights in a makeshift holder, plus some tall beeswax tapers in ceramic holders I bought years ago in Italy. The second, a thick, printed, cotton table cloth with matching napkins that a friend brought me from France as a wedding gift, and the single candle holder with tea lights inside.

Of course there were small dishes of marinated things – and no plastic tubs to be seen.


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