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Our lives are busy. We work hard at everything we do, and (hopefully) we enjoy the results. Cooking food, creating pleasant surroundings, serving our family and friends, creating. Yes, creating. We work diligently to select menus, shop for and purchase just the right ingredients, prepare them, cook them to perfection and then what? If you are like most of us, we serve that fabulous food from the pots on the stove. While I am not saying that serving via the stove is a bad thing mind you (I do so myself on occasion), I do contend that we're not honoring our labor - our creativity - as we could. And if we don't, who will?
Think of the dining experience that you expect to have when you walk into an elegant restaurant. Tables, aglow with candlelight, topped with white linens, bone china, crystal goblets, and the aroma of something magical wafting from the kitchen. The restaurant is selling the sizzle, yes, but most fine dining restaurants strive to provide you with a complete culinary experience. My definition of a complete culinary experience is a meal that you savor with all your senses.
So, you say "I'm just lucky to get it cooked...I don't have time to..." I know. Often we are so pressed for time we feel fortunate to pull something from the micro and hand it to whomever is waiting. But, with a few minutes, here's how you can create the complete culinary experience in your own home - a table that invites those eating around it to truly appreciate your effort. Remember, we eat with our eyes first, and our nostrils second!
First, a tablecloth immediately sets a mood. It doesn't necessarily have to be white; any solid color can be simply elegant. The use of placemats set a more casual table mood, but still command attention. Take the lead from your menu. Serving barbecue ribs with corn on the cob? Placemats with big thirsty hand towels as napkins are utterly perfect. My advice here is to stay away from plastic unless you are picnicking or otherwise casually dining al fresco!
Next, the plates. Bone china is wonderful for special occasions, particularly layered, i.e.; patterned china topped with a solid color salad and bread plate. And please note that it is very chic to use mismatched china, so long as the colors in the pieces are alike. A teal, rose and taupe floral plate coordinates nicely with a patterned salad plate in the same colors. Yes, even plaids and stripes work together in this setting, as long as the color hue(s) are of the same intensity. Everyday dishes are just that. They can be used alone, everyday, or combined with some finer pieces for a little extra pizzazz. Just remember that this is the object that will showcase your food. You may even want to use larger plates as "chargers" for your dinner plate. The layered look is always grand.
Now the fun part. Add your napkins, utensils and glasses to the table. Think of them as the jewelry you would add to a favorite outfit. By the way, unless you want to look like a restaurant, I suggest keeping the napkins on the table - not stuffed into a goblet - or perched on top of the plate. Alongside the plate is the perfectly natural place to find a napkin. Napkin rings add yet another dimension to your table, and can be virtually anything. A simple raffia bow, a single silk mini-flower, even a twist-tie with a fresh flower makes an elegant statement when wrapped around a napkin. Flowers for the table? Always nice, but not required for everyday meals. Candles? I always vote yes to candles. Worried about candles around your kids? Children will love the adventure of 'eating in the dark'. Use your judgement, just remember that even the tiniest votive really says "special".
Whatever your menu; canned soup to gazpacho, burgers to filet mignon, fish sticks to filet of sole, it will taste better from a well set table. Try it. My bet is that your family/friends/significant other says: "What's the special occasion?" Answer: HomeStyle.Have a more formal occasion coming up? How do we really put on the Glitz without spending a week's time and a small fortune? Want to know a secret that will light up your glass table and set an utterly smashing mood? Wondering whether you should use a centerpiece? Next time, we'll talk about centerpieces and tables all aglow. We can honor our homes and ourselves by celebrating our creativity. And, we can do it together. Until next time, celebrate your style!