Vintage Vignette - November 2016
Ready… Set… The Table
Table-scaping your way through the holidays with your beloved serving ware (and family) with Martha Whitney Butler.
After that one brief episode, every holiday table has been something out of Southern Living and the paper plates a family joke. It’s a production of sorts, just like we remembered growing up, laid before our unworthy eyes and grubby little hands. I think we all make it a point to place aside our aggressions and issues with each other to dine peacefully with only the sounds of laughter and clinking of sterling silver upon the china polluting the air.
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.
I think the best table scapes come from the heart. You can quite literally place your memories upon a table for all to feast upon. It is a moment of glamour, self-sacrifice, and indulgence that we need a few times a year. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to create an environment like this for you and your family.
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.
Whether you are a few salad plates short of a setting, or swimming in inherited sterling and crystal, you might at least try your hand at it this year.
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.
If you're attending a well put-together service at your in-laws, please graciously offer your help to them, and if they refuse, insist. I would rather have a daughter-in-law break a piece of heirloom china than have one that never offered to help do the dishes.
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.
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