Honor Thy Friends and Family as Guests

| February 1, 2019 | 0 Comments

A table set beautifully is a great way to honor your guests.

If you are sixty or younger, you may have decided to keep your lives simple and spurn the “stuff” your parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles used. Among this “stuff” is our good China, our sterling, our crystal, and our linens – from table linens to guest towels. Most of you feel it’s too much work to have what we older folk call “nice things.” Many of you rarely sit together for meals without television or cell phones. I find this sad.

I like knowing my children grew up in a home as both my husband and I did where dinner was eaten together, at the table with no outside distractions. It is a tradition that augments the feeling of family and civility, even if there are occasional spats or upsets.

Once in a while, it is fun to create a special meal. This may be a family favorite or a gourmet meal inspired by the Food Channel. If friends are invited, it may be an occasion to be a little dressed up. Regardless of whom you’ve invited, having the food, the diners’ dress, and the table set beautifully is a great way to honor your guests. It is fun to be able to have the food, the diners’ dress, and the table setting shine.

The planning, the decorating, the preparation, the cooking, and whatever else goes into a celebratory meal is wonderful if it is a team effort. A spouse or partner, a relative, a friend, or anyone who has a similar vision to yours makes the process fun and creates an even stronger bond. Preparing an evening as a team effort makes my husband and me feel like newlyweds, especially during and after the last dinner party we gave.

If you are lucky enough to have a source for these luxury items or you have the budget to buy them, there are times when the meal and company are worthy of a more formal table setting; and it is really fun to use it. The atmosphere need not be formal; good friends and good conversation are the mainstay of a successful get-together.

Yes, it is a little work, but if the meal and company are worth a bit of extra effort, there are ways of making the work fun. Spending time and discussing the planning and execution can make the tasks easier and enjoyable.

Polishing silver can be relaxing and therapeutic, provided that you decide you are using the silver before you actually begin the preparations for the meal. Some older pieces have tarnish in crevices that don’t clean. This adds to their patina, especially if most of the piece is sparkling. Thinking about the continuity and civility of sharing possessions from generation to generation helps us to “get into the zone” of polishing, washing, and refreshing cherished items. Once the silver is polished, wrap it tightly to keep the air from tarnishing it again. This can preserve the shine for years.

Linens dress up an occasion. A table set with beautiful linens can make you and your guests feel special. An arrangement of fresh flowers is to the table as a wrist corsage to a prom girl, a nice accessory. Candles add glamor as well, and beautiful crystal augments the festive feeling.

Most China is dishwasher safe; mine is not. However, I seem to slip into a trance as I wash my China by hand. It has gold trim; and since each dishwasher trip causes the gold to fade, I began washing it by hand hoping its next owner would be glad that I did. I enjoy thinking (hoping) that a future owner will also cherish it.

Silver can be washed in the dishwasher, but it looks best washed by hand. Older knives’ handles will separate from the blade as the glue used before the 70s or later does not withstand the heat or acidity of the dishwasher and its soap.

If you plan ahead and have silver, linens, crystal and China ready, the day before the party you can set up everything. If you have pets, you may want to lay a sheet over the set table. A beautifully set table can be a disaster with one curious or active or hairy cat!

My husband and I are fans of having the food prepared ahead of time as well. The last dinner party we gave found me two hours behind when the guests arrived. I was just putting fruit on fruit tarts when they arrived. Fortunately, good friends pitched in and finished decorating my tart! Careful planning avoids this kind of mishap.

I also enjoy the cleanup. After the guests leave, we put away the perishable foods, stack the plates, and rinse the silver and set it, working end up, in a large glass. (Salad dressing tarnishes silver!) Then we go to bed.

In the morning, working together, finishing the clean up is simple. Most important, it doesn’t have to be finished immediately. You spent time planning and executing this event. Spend whatever time you need to disassemble and put everything away.

Do consider the pleasure you can get by dressing everything up for a party. The “good stuff” is fun to use and even more fun to contemplate future generations enjoying it. As my husband says, “Shared traditions, conversation, and civility make friendships and relationships grow and bloom. The patina of time and caring adds meaning and memories to a life well-lived.”

The Garden Club meeting on Thursday, February 28 will feature Abe Far discussing bonsai, from its history and styles to how to plant and care for bonsais. The meeting is from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Mission Hills Church of Christ at 4070 Jackdaw between Fort Stockton and West Lewis.

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About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.

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