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Stories

How to set a table for life

Every mealtime is an event. Garden picnic, sofa supper or family breakfast, they all bring nourishment while nurturing creativity and sustaining relationships. How do we honour these occasions? The modern art of eating and entertaining isn’t a set of rules; it’s an attitude that fosters healthy bodies, happy minds and friendships. Here is how we see it.
Be My Guest
Being a guest doesn’t have the formal connotations it once had. Invite guests to become family and sit at the kitchen table while you cook. Let them relax, help with chopping or allow them to bring ingredients and expertise to the meal preparation to make it a communal food adventure. Democratise your dishes so there are no ‘best plates’ and ‘everyday plates’. If you elevate your everyday, inviting people in becomes easy. Today the interplay between guest and host is not an intricate dance of can and can’t dos. It’s an act of social intimacy played out over care-free creating and sharing of food.
Set The Stage
You don’t have to be a world-class stylist to paint a winning tableau in ceramic, glass and textile on your table. Does anyone care if your glass is on the right, the left, or drifting in the middle of your setting? Or where your napkin lands? Or if the cutlery is lined up correctly? Set for your guests’ comfort; for ease of eating and sharing stories. The rules are to follow no rules, Take your essentials, mix them with an heirloom candle holder, layer the lacquer bowl from Japan on your everyday platter, alongside a tumbler from a flea market. Be secure in the knowledge that no other table will ever look or have looked exactly like yours does today.
Simply Food
When it comes to cooking, keep it simple, relaxed and seasonal. Let the food on your table be an extension of your home, speaking of your travels, your comforts, your joys. Whether hosting family or friend, ditch the packets and pans and get food onto the table in crockery you care for. Serving dishes can be humble or impressive. A platter can be a canvas for an elegant arrangement, or casually piled high; herb-buttered carrots can find a home in the nearest bowl to hand; roasts carved to a plate. Prepare one pot in advance so that a weekday dinner can still be shared after work with ease. And ensure water, tap or herb-infused, is always near at hand, ready to be poured from a pitcher or refillable bottle.
Slow. Things. Down.
We’ve heard the mantra to slow things down and live mindfully for decades but if ever we needed its value reinforced, we got it during the pandemic lockdown. Whether it's feeding a sourdough culture or potting and repotting tomato plants, these simple acts have become ways to bring order and purpose to our everyday when all other markers of a successful fast-paced life are gone. Comfort can be found in doing things meaningfully; going about everyday tasks with increased care and consideration. Enjoy not only the art of making food from scratch, but take a tip from Japanese epicureans and show love to your tools too. Wash them by hand, polish and maintain them, hang and display your cherished cups and tools.
Bring Nature Inside
A humble arrangement of gathered stems, leaves, or branches brings warmth and welcome to an occasion - or simply the kitchen table - however relaxed the presentation. The simpler, in fact, the better: something harvested on a morning walk, picked or pruned from the garden and placed in a pitcher or cast among a tray of fruit. Look at nature for its shape and colour, let it become an abstract sculpture at your table. Even fading flora can have beauty and bewitching aromas. Just avoid building a forest of foliage between guests - keep it low and unobtrusive.
Good Enough
There’s a balance to be found between considered and carefree. Consider a guest’s comfort, but keep your own expectations relaxed. Letting go of stiff convention and norms, leaving ego behind and keeping it humble makes a better host of you; your energy is reserved for your welcome. If it’s a beautiful bowl, no-one will mind the cracks in the glaze. If the patina has gone from a butter dish, it has lived and probably has tales to tell. If the pie crust is wonky, will it taste any worse for it? Age and imperfection can enhance beauty rather than take from it.
Community Building

The home is where we cultivate community, the place where we gather to eat and swap stories. Whether it is enjoyed alone or shared with a partner, a large family, housemates, nurturing and nourishing community in the home makes for closer, better, more rewarding relationships. Lay a Saturday brunch with friends; an early evening dinner for the playdate guest; bowl food on the sofa with the flatmate; a working lunch with freelance friends or Sunday lunch with the family. 

Illustrations by Charlotte Trounce

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