Our extremely talented neighbor, Dave, designed and built this black walnut dining room table. At his studio, we picked out the wood, but gave him carte blanche to create whatever he fancied. Our only restrictions were dimensions.
Curvy, organic, showcasing the beauty of the wood grain and weighing in at around 53,864 pounds, this beauty arrived on a flatbed truck last August. Quickly becoming our favorite piece of furniture, when we die, our daughter has claimed adoption rights. Sorry, son.
Decorating and home magazines would have you believe the American way of life has changed and dining rooms are obsolete. Sit at the island in the kitchen for quick meals on the run because everyone is overworked and overscheduled. Since a dining room is wasted space, turn it into a library or home office because it's only used once a year at Thanksgiving. Or eliminate the room entirely.
Life is short. Every meal should be an occasion to celebrate. Even if all you can manage is breakfast once a week.
We actually use our dining room. A lot. My favorite way to entertain family and friends is to invite them for a meal. It doesn't have to be fancy or costly. Hot dogs and s'mores by the bonfire in July. Chili and cornbread on a cold night in January. Or I'll go all in and cook for days. Now, that's amore.
The Queen's Birthday, Cinco de Mayo, the Harvest Moon or National Kazoo Day are all good holidays to celebrate by gathering friends around the dinner table for a feast. Or, just because it's Tuesday. Or, your day didn't turn out quite like you planned.
The food is not the focus.
What's important is the conviviality and camaraderie of the people sitting around the table. They will probably forget what was served, but they will always remember you thought enough to include them, had a rollicking good time and thankfully, didn't have to cook that night.
I've always said that if someone invited me over for a ham sandwich, it would be the best ham sandwich I've ever eaten, because someone took the time to make it for me.
At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well,
and talk well but not too wisely.
W. Somerset Maugham
Setting a festive table is a creative outlet that I wholeheartedly enjoy. Dishes need not match, a centerpiece is optional, but cloth napkins are a must. I love to use English Crackers that contain party hats, a toy and joke. Bill is the only one that consistently refuses to wear his paper party hat. Elizabeth makes up for him by always wearing hers.
There was that occasion when we invited friends for a Sunday Brunch. Arriving at 11:00 am and sitting down to eat around noon, we finally got up from the table around 6:30 pm. Hearty food and the joviality of our guests made for a real Denny's "Grand Slam Breakfast." It still holds the record for the longest time it took to eat a meal in our home. But who's counting?
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well,
if one has not dined well.
Sharing a meal with those you love is the ultimate form of hospitality. Sure it's a hell of a lot easier to just go out, but that's so impersonal and takes no effort beyond making a reservation and showing up. We like to linger for hours over wine or coffee as the merriment continues long into the night. Who am I kidding? It's usually wine.
I know I inherited my love of having dinner parties from the Gold Standard of Professionals, my mom and dad, or as I nicknamed them "Boo" and "Toots." Both excellent cooks, their parties were legendary, often carried themes and required costumes and brought scores of people together from all walks of life. Boo was still hosting dinner parties at the tender age of 85 and her kitchen was, hands down, the best restaurant in town.
Don't forget to light the candles and have great music playing in the background.
So what's stopping you?
Brush the cobwebs off the ceiling in your dining room. Remove that stack of tax forms, junk and laundry waiting to be folded from your table. Pick up the phone and invite those people that you love to be around over for dinner this week. Of course, I know you're busy and hate to cook, but we all have to eat, right?
Or announce to your kids it's "Family Dinner Night" without the distraction of any electronics and accept no excuses. Get them involved in the meal planning and cooking. Kids love this kind of stuff, honestly they do.
Single? Invite other singles for a potluck and create new friendships or nurture old ones.
No idea how to cook? Watch the Food Network, You Tube videos or search for recipes online for beginners.
Don't own a single pan and haven't a clue how to turn on your oven? Order take-out and serve it on real plates. Don't have any plates? Flea markets, Target or resell shops sell a bounty of really cool dishes.
Keep the menu simple but delicious. Set the table without paper products, please. Warmly welcome your guests into your home and then sit down for a tasty repast and engage in lively conversations with the cell phones safely tucked away.
Feed your bellies, but more importantly, your souls.
Later, after saying your "goodnights" and cleaning up the mess in the kitchen, think of all that was gained in the course of just one simple meal. I promise you'll be anticipating the next dinner party long before bedtime.
Our favorite gathering place and the heart of our home, now sits squarely in the middle of the dining room.
If you would like to see more of Dave's talent and body of work, check out his website below: