(a bit about the other part of our culture of food and eating…)
Picture this: you and your honey are on a long-anticipated hot date out on the town. You’re heading to your favorite restaurant. It’s the one with the quaint atmosphere, spot-on drinks and a menu that keeps you coming back for more. Wearing your fancy shoes and with a skip in your step you’re seated at the best table in the house. Anticipating the delightful experience that is to come you settle into your chairs. Then, a slow inquisitive look passes over your man’s face. Following his gaze, you see what he sees. The usually impeccable table is disheveled. It has crumbs on it and there’s no table cloth or lit candles and the modern dinnerware has been replaced with…gasp! Paper goods and plastic silverware? What in tarnation?! You glance around quickly to make sure a dirty trick hasn’t been played or that, for some reason, you haven’t happened into a twilight zone with sad ambiance. As the waiter approaches, his appearance mirrors that of the table. His face is flat, clothes dirty and unkempt, and he’s altogether entirely too casual. Before a question can dart from your lips he nonchalantly mentions that the restaurant had declared this day to be their “easy button” day. On this day of all days they decide to slack off and hope you won’t have the same high expectations they usually meet?!
Okay. So, the odds of this happening are close to zero but I’m writing all this nonsense to prove a point. If this were to happen why would you or I be so upset? It’s because our favorite places to eat are our favorite places because of the standard they put on display. The word, “standard,” means “a thing used as a measure.” For a restaurant to meet my standard it must cater to all my senses in an excellent way. I’m sure you have one in mind now that brings a smile to your face not only because of the delicious food but also the memory that you have and the way it made you feel while eating that food. This is the part of eating a meal we at Veritas Kitchen would like to expand upon.
Eating is essential to sustain life. People have always eaten. Patterns of eating, sources of food, and food production have all changed throughout history. Our mindsets toward eating and preparing food is effected by society. So, you might ask yourself the “whys” behind your daily routines when it comes to food. In our house whether something is convenient is a huge factor. We’re busy so limited time and, honestly, just a desire for an all-around easier day have resulted in a habit of using paper plates. Am I proud of this? Not particularly. In the heavenly realm, will I be judged for this? I don’t think so. But, without me making way too much out of nothing, hear me out. Think about it this way. We as parents and caregivers are creating environments in our homes for our children. What is the standard we are giving them? This question makes me cringe a bit. Allowing convenience to always win out or having no standard other than slapping some food that will at least make our bellies feel full onto a plate and shoveling it in isn’t a choice I mean to make. It isn’t the standard I set out to teach. In this day and time, if we aren’t intentional about something different; something better, it’s easy to find yourself there.
Growing up my great-grandmother would always cook a huge meal on Sundays and invite the entire extended family to come and eat. The table was always set with a tablecloth, napkins, and beautiful plates. We would gather around and not only eat but talk about our week. She was secretly creating a beautiful woven bond of love in all the laughter, joking, light discussions and deep conversations. She created a beautiful environment and one that I took for granted. I have allowed myself to slip on that slippery slope that is our microwave society and it grieves my heart. If I want to put on display a culture of excellence to my children, then I must be on guard, vigilant, disciplined, and mindful about the standards and habits our children’s minds are unconsciously absorbing.
So, am I saying you’ll never again catch a paper plate on my dinner table? Absolutely not. Those plates have a purpose. We do live busy lives and there are definitely seasons when this simple convenience can bring an extra element of peace. All we are submitting to you is this: Consider being more mindful about how often these convenient paper plates are put on your table, the manner in which dinner is presented, and the ambiance that surrounds it. When we present a standard, it’s fascinating to see the ways you, your spouse, and your children will try to live up to that standard.
Remember the movie “The Blindside?” One of my favorite scenes is when Michael ends up with the Tuohy family over Thanksgiving weekend. Leigh Ann Tuohy (the mother) buys and prepares their Thanksgiving meal. She first presents it in a buffet style to cater to her family’s desire to watch the annual football game during the meal. Everyone has their plates and are chowing down watching the game when she notices Michael. He’s alone at their large dining room table quietly eating his lunch. Mrs. Tuohy decides to turns off the TV and refocuses her family’s attention. She sets the table nicely, presenting the food as if a king were at her table. She changed her mindset and her “normal” to meet a new standard.
A set table invites us to slow down, eat more meaningfully, and actually enjoy the experience instead of just shoveling some grub down to quiet our demanding tummies. In taking the time to set our tables we can show there is a definite mindfulness to excellence. When we slow down and become deliberate about the WHAT and the WHY behind the things we do, so often it can change us for the better. If we set the table they will come and become a part of the genuine magic that can happen when people gather together to break bread, listen, discuss, and laugh. It’s not just about the food (although love is an important ingredient in your prepared meals. More on that another time). It’s the heart behind it.
So, is all this blathering to heap condemnation your head and make you feel super guilty for your current table setting abilities or inclinations? Absolutely not. There is never judgement, only encouragement in how to enrich and make our lives more purposeful. I hope to help make those table-setting occasions less stressful and more fun for you. See, for instance, our new Dinner for 2 menuand tablescape. I wanted to set a pretty table for a special evening but not one that necessarily screamed, “IT’S VALENTINES DAY!!!” So, I took it back a notch from the usual pink and hearts (although, you can certainly add that to your table!)
Think simple. In my book simplicity goes a long way. I pulled out my version of white plates. If you don’t have a version of a white plate, consider it one day. I like to think of white plates as the “little black dress” of my dinner table. It’s probably a dumb analogy but it helps me make the process less difficult and more fun. They have tons of potential and there are hundreds of possibilities with the right accessories.
In addition to using my trusty white plates I set a more neutral table. I liked the idea of offsetting the white plates with a grey tablecloth. It just set the stage for me. Then, I started looking for a napkin that would fit the bill. I wanted something to dress it up a bit. My favorite local go-tos for cloth napkins include Home Good’s, World Market, Pier 1 and Dillard’s. If those disappoint I look to Anthropologie, West Elm, Crate and Barrel or Williams Sonoma online. My winner for this table was from Anthropologie. They were simple yet elegant and they had all the colors I wanted to get across subtly on our table (whites, golds, and silvers). Plus, they were totally on sale! The rest of the table came together with some mismatched silverware (we only had one set of gold so we added the silver and it worked beautifully). The gold candleholders added a bit of romance and the floral arrangement was from Grayce Floral here in Lubbock. The blush and touch of burgundy in this arrangement added a sweetness to the table. I usually just get ideas from Pinterest and then tell the floral shop what I have in mind but you can always be creative. Use what you have around you, depending on the seasons. The cups were mismatched. I adore the more “eclectic” look because I think it shows the love in those items that comes with use. Sometimes there’s only bits and pieces left and that’s okay. Make them a part of your history and culture. Tell your kids about the stories behind the pieces. They will in turn love and appreciate them the way you do.
This blog is truly intended to build you up and encourage you. We hope you will feel motivated and free to reevaluate your current mindset on meals. If there is room for improvement, then be encouraged to simply put love on your table, displayed however you see it. That’s the beauty of it.