Ready… Set… The Table
I'll never forget the Thanksgiving when my mom threw her hands up and screamed, “Jesus take the wheel!”
While she didn't necessarily throw her hands up and scream, her feelings of exhaustion and frustration were conveyed through a more startling medium in our home- the use of paper plates.
After years of designing elaborate table scapes, it was her way of showing that she felt unappreciated and probably a test to see if we were as authentically cretinous as we liked to pretend. It worked.
Those thin, droopy, soggy plates sent a cold shiver down the spines of those in the Butler household that day. At first, we examined them like Neanderthals would examine a modern tool. Then came the whispering, followed by the cries of her litter. Unforgiving remarks ensued through the buffet-style line until someone had the audacity to ask about her mental state. Probably not the best idea…
The time the table scape was absent and the silver sobbed while being hidden away in the drawer was just plain rotten. It proved to me the importance of the moment around the table shared with family and a colorful mixture of my brothers' flippant girlfriends. It was my mother’s time to shine, the home’s time to be full of life, and our time to be thankful.
Alternatively, there's nothing wrong with NOT doing this, but please do leave inspired by the décor when you leave the table of someone who has taken the time to do so. Better yet, help them wash the dishes afterwards since these are not items to simply cast into the jaws of a dishwasher.
Or better than that, help them dive into the trash to retrieve the sterling silver pieces that have gone unaccounted for post-meal. Here’s a tip: before you suspect your kleptomaniac aunt or the gum-chewing girlfriend of taking the sterling flatware, check to make sure it hasn’t fallen down the disposal or accidentally scraped into the bin.
If you haven't been endowed with heirloom china, you can always scout it out at your local antique shops. Even be on the lookout for it at your local thrift stores, as it often goes neglected.
Also, don't be afraid to mix and match. I often find myself flipping over my china to see what company produced it at the Sycamore House. Its a fun and delightful way to set a table, especially if you have the desire to learn about different patterns and origins.
Are you the newbie - taking on the service for the first time? No one expects you to offer a Downton Abbey-style dinner. If you need china, don’t be afraid to ask your family. I believe they would be absolutely flattered to be asked to teach you their ways. The veterans may very well be at a “paper plate” stage, but instead of just throwing your hands up, ask for help. There is bound to be an eager new daughter-in-law or impermanent girlfriend just waiting to showcase their “traditional” hot pink fluffy Pinterest-inspired dessert or multi-colored deviled eggs (guilty as charged on the latter.) Use it as a time to pass on your knowledge and ancient wisdom.
And for the persons who have simply run out of time this year, call in the professionals. This is a service offered locally by your very own Shoofly columnist, moi.
Go forth and be thankful this season. Show it in every way you can. Put out the china, silver, and crystal for your loved ones and deck the halls. I hate to be trite, but we really never know when our time will come and the last holidays we want to reflect upon are those littered with paper plates and plastic memories.
For professional table scape services or consultations, etiquette advice, home décor, floral centerpieces, silver polishing, linen pressing, and wine pairing, please call The French Potager 228.364.3091.