Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Presentation: The "Ta-Dah!" on the Table

Food as the primary subject for still life has been known to artists since the first cave painter recorded the first successful hunt, and has come right down through history through every era. The form, line, color, shape, and texture of food has been a source of fascination and an outlet for creativity for all humans. Wall paintings such as this one from a villa in Pompeii show that the beautiful presentation of food has long been considered one of the characteristics of fine living. Pick up any magazine like Sunset, Martha Stewart Living, or Bon Appetit and you'll be barraged with professionally staged food settings, photographed for maximum appeal.

Much goes into merchandising the table in these mags. We, however, can make our table at home beautiful, appetizing, and meaningful without benefit of professional food wranglers. In an age when most families don't sit down at the same time (mine included) due to all our commitments we can, if we are intentional about it, make the meal a beautiful sight and a touchstone for our own family culture. The familiar objects tucked away from older generations or a few slightly lost objects from childhood evoke connections among diners and shouldn't be left solely for Thanksgiving or Christmas use. Creating an inviting still life only takes a few minutes and isn't a matter of ordering costly floral arrangements or new dishes.

First, consider the contents of your china cabinet. Is there a funny old kiddie dish your grandma used to serve you when you were little? Are there three or four chipped crystal goblets you wouldn't actually want anyone to drink from? Is there a silver teapot you'd use if you didn't have to polish it? What about those odd color napkins that don't match any tablecloth in the house? Although we may not realize it, these objects represent our own unique family story. Pull them out of the china cabinet and dream up ways to use them beautifully to present beautiful food.

For example, how about sunny cherry tomatoes piled in that little Beatrix Potter china bowl? Or melon cubes stacked in those crystal goblets, topped with vanilla yogurt, as a focal point at each person's place? Or the silver teapot, tarnish and all, as a "vase" to hold whole-grain breadsticks?* And things don't really need to all match perfectly any longer, unless the Queen's

expected for dinner. So why not set a basket on the table filled with all different colors of fabric napkins?

One of the most delightful social events we've been to was my brother Ken's wedding to his longtime ladylove, Val. For the reception, they spent weeks transforming their garden and yard into a magical place, where flea-market chandeliers hung from the trees and yards of tulle wound around and through the shrubbery. The total Alice-in-Wonderland effect was perfectly captured in the table settings. Flea market finds of china teacups and saucers were stacked on plates and wrapped in tulle at each place. Tucked into each cup was a touching note and a monogrammed packet of flower seeds for each guest to take home-along with your teacup and saucer, each of which was absolutely unique! Here at home, I relive the joy of that day every time I take out my teacup and saucer for my breakfast coffee.

You don't have to break the bank for a beautiful table, either. Think color! Everyday tablecloths, placemats, and napkins can be changed out frequently depending on what you're serving. Look for them at yard sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. (Check for stains and tears) Retro looks from the fifties and Mad Men '60s can be fun, Asian is always good, and nothing beats old linen or lace. Try a fifties print tablecloth with pink dishes or a bright red cloth with black Asian bamboo placemats and white porcelain dishes. Combinations are limited only by imagination, and low-calorie food will taste a lot more satisfying if our eyes are happy.

Speaking of being HeARTistic, I love doing things with flowers and enjoy the unconventional. For instance, with the cracked crystal goblets-Line three of them up in the middle of the table, fill halfway with water, and float a camellia or open rose in each. No flowers in bloom? Slip a twig of shrubbery, herbs, or berries into the napkin at each place setting. Need color? A fresh monster strawberry on the side of the plate perks up the whole tablescape.

I wish you many happy "Ta-Dah's" at your HeART healthy table. Enjoy! It will be a different day tomorrow, so make the most of the "today" you have today!

*If the inside of the old teapot is yucky, stick a clean glass down inside it to hold the breadsticks if you really don't have the time to polish.

1 comment:

Quicksilver Spirit said...

Note: Sorry, readers, for the uneven spacing between paragraphs this evening. It seems to be an occupational azard with Blogger. If the problem persists, I'll switch to Wordpress. I appreciate your patience! Dori