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Filtering by Tag: table

Silence at the Table

Suzanne Pollak

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Ever watched a couple at a restaurant in total silence? Did they run out of things to talk about, or have nothing surprising or delightful to say to each other? Worse still, are they absorbed in their devices, two people together yet a globe apart?

For onlookers, it could signal a scary glimpse into the future. The Dean wonders if budding relationships which might have turned into happy marriages stopped before they could even start. Young lovers may be alarmed at such a sight and decide, Not for me! I’d rather by alone than silent with a lifetime partner. 

One way to skirt around this seemingly unsurmountable fact of many lives is to invite a third or fourth for dinner. Lonely silence that is bound to happen between two people once in a while, won’t happen with three or four. If you are in need of a conversation helper, look no further than a friend in need of a meal. Sometimes all we require is a fresh perspective to get us out of a rut of same ol' deafening silence. 

One caveat however, depending on the relationship and setting: silence can signal two people at ease. Restaurants may be for lots of two-way talking, but sitting on a sailboat, or a patio overlooking a salt marsh with flying ducks in silence is anything but awkward. It's blissful wordless communication. 

Blow Open Your Tabletops

Suzanne Pollak

Now to address a few burning Bridal FAQs re: table settings, centerpieces, and personal style. A wedding registry is no time for strict guidelines, but rather a chance to begin building your collection for decades of dinner parties to come. No matter what stress should ever consume your day, you can ease out of it by cooking dinner, sipping a glass of wine, and setting the table (and mood) for the night ahead.

No need to register for two china patterns, one fancy and one for everyday. Way too old school! Far better to delve deep into your inner being and suss out all the aspects of your person. Think color, moods, passions, place...

For example, maybe you appreciate hand-carved wood -- consider a collection of handmade bowls. There's no end to what you can do with these. Use smaller ones for olives and nuts at cocktail hour, or for individual starter salads at dinner. Fill larger bowls with BIG salads, or perhaps something else interesting (citrus, hankies, pens and paper for a parlor game) to set as a centerpiece. Or, choose wooden chargers. And you know what looks good with wood? Gold, of course!

Just look at this extravagant, marvelous, opulent Royal Crown Derby. Who can afford to collect a whole set? And besides that, who wants to? It is so too much, simply over the top. All that gold cancels out to equal a big let down, where a one-size plate sizzles and shines on the table. Perfection! A gold salad plate looks amazing filled with greens for a salad course, chocolate tart for dessert... Actually, everything looks good with gold.

Okay, how to satisfy your love of birds? Consider Ginori. There is nothing as wonderful as a set of 8 or 12 or 24 dinner plates featuring birds. These beauties yearn for a Thanksgiving dinner to be placed on them, but dazzle even under an everyday roast chicken. These plates say something about you; your passion for nature, individual style, love of design. What could be more boring than a whole set of one china pattern covering the table? The older the Dean gets, the more she thinks, YUCK. This person has let someone else tell her what to do, and ignored that inner voice of what she likes.

What appeals most to us? Anything but flipping through ad-filled magazines, shopping at bridal superstores, or listening to friends and family who have never identified true style. Plates and objects on a table are a way to express yourself. So are centerpieces: flowers mixed with fruit, bunches of veggies and greens that will become tomorrows main course, a handmade pie that will become tonight's dessert.

Have fun with the rest! Modern flatware choices might include horn (so chic) or bronze (gleams on the table and unique to boot) but there is still something to be said for a classic silver pattern. The most popular through the ages? Francis the First has that swirly Baroque feel which pairs so well with plain, stark, straight. Don't be afraid to mix high and low. As for napkins, it's all about juxtaposing different colors, textures, and aspects of your personality. Sometimes you feel flirty and fun, other times more composed and traditional. Sometimes girly, sometimes a huntress.

Let it all out on the table, loves. These kind of style decisions will get you well on your way to bolstering your confidence. No one needs to tell you they approve. If you like it, then go for it. That’s exactly what the Dean does, and it has always worked for her. 

Shut the Fork Up! It Goes Where?

Suzanne Pollak

Photographed by Landon Neil Phillips for Local Palate, Spring 2016.

Photographed by Landon Neil Phillips for Local Palate, Spring 2016.

How important is it to set the fork on the left side of the plate? A very reasonable question recently asked to the Dean, and naturally the Dean has answers, two actually, both completely correct. 

If you are a young professional moving up in the world, planning on making your mark, the answer to the question is that placement of the fork is of upmost importance. Let's say you did not learn how to set a table and it escaped your notice where a fork goes. Sadly you may be marked as a person who has no clue about table manners, and perhaps even as one who is confused in other life skills, business matters, political savvy, social situations -- however incorrect these assumptions may be. Therefore, you must master the seemingly insignificant fork placement to be the person you want to portray. 

Now, if you are an older person, say as old as the Dean, it makes little difference where you place your fork. Because you know the rules, and have abided by them forever, you now have the choice to go off pist and do exactly what you want. Say you are running late for your own dinner party and arrive minutes before guests knock on the door. It is perfectly okay for you to put the pot on to boil, place a pile of silverware on the table and pour cocktails without missing a beat. You are not even required to set the table, instead ask your guests to sit down and help themselves to their own fork. Not only will your dinner be delightfully relaxed, you will be known as chic, sui generis, and possessing your own style. 

Manners and etiquette must be learned and adhered to to make our society work, including where that damn fork is placed, but once you learn the rules you are allowed to break them when you have already made your mark on the world. Got it?