To pick up hints on entertaining in the best way possible, I have become a fan of author, Sally Quinn. Her biography on books tells us that she "was for many years a political reporter for The Washington Post, famous for her coverage of the social scene as well as national politics...her husband, Ben Bradlee, the former executive editor of The Washington Post."
The most recent book of Sally's that I have read inspired me to rethink my dinner table. When the children were young, I had a rather large table with two leaves that easily sat 8 to 10 people. When all the children had left home, I thought I'd be down-sizing so I passed the table on. I didn't realize I would still he hosting a growing family, only now one including in-laws of the children, grandchildren, college friends and other visitors.
At my last large holiday meal my guests were seated at two smaller tables put end to end. The table looked beautiful but it definitely hampered the conversation between everyone. Waving down the long table was the only way to connect with those at the far end.
Sally's book "The Party, a Guide to Adventurous Entertaining" had a paragraph that inspired me. It said "A five-foot round table is a good size because you can put four people or twelve at it. Twelve is a little tight, but I find people have a good time when they're jammed in together." And on another page: "The rounder and more generous a table, the better time guests generally have." And yet on another page: "Round tables are best for conversation. That's just a fact. Even with twelve people you can have a group conversation with a round table."
After reading this, I got it in my head that I "needed" to find a round table! Preferably one that was five-feet across. I already had a smaller round table and loved it but it wasn't round after I put a leaf in it. After starting my search for the perfect table, I found one that was intriguing. It was in a decorator store with a rather high price tag. What I liked about it was that it had leaves that attached to the edges of the table, thus maintaining its round shape when it was enlarged. What I didn't like was the heavy, strange base and the soft wood that would chip easily. I even brought my husband, Rex, to the store to show him what I had found. It was close to what I wanted but this wasn't it.
Since another holiday was nearing, Rex and I were prompted to do a serious search for a larger table. A round table was my preference but it appeared that the need outweighed the availability. We considered a number of rectangular tables with leaves, almost buying one that luckily was out of stock. After a day of searching, we had one more stop to make.
We had looked in lovely, pricey stores but our final stop was at a consignment store in a new shopping mall. Immediately we felt hopeful as we wandered around the showroom. There were a few table sets all reasonably priced and worth considering. As we made a complete circle through the building we spotted what we wanted in the front corner of the store.
Our table had been waiting for us! There sat a 72 inch round, wooden table with drop down sides and a green wooden base. As we marvelled at how perfect this table was, another couple noticed it and indicated interest until they saw that we had dibs on it first. So, with our new-found prize, we were additionally excited to find that with the drop down sides, it would fit in the back of our SUV which saved a hefty delivery charge. As I waited for Rex to back the SUV up to the door, a lady who worked at the store came over to visit. She told me how she wanted this table and she even went home and measured her dining room to see if it would fit. Lucky for us, her dining room was too small!
A few days after bringing the table home, we had our first holiday dinner. We had 10 people and it was delightful having everyone sitting around the new table. I used colorful, round placemats and tulips in a vase in the center which all added beautiful, vibrant color. It was a joyful time.
There is definitely something special about being able to see and visit with everyone I am hosting. We had a second dinner with another mix of 10 people about a week later. Again, the smiling faces across the large, round table were delightful. I had achieved my dream.
The table sits quietly most of the time with one leaf dropped down, thereby making room to push the table against the dining room wall. The base has movable legs that fold up when a side is dropped. I was told that the table is a replica of an antique style. I sometimes wonder who had the foresight to own this unique table before us and why they were willing to give it up. However, it's found it's place in our home and it feels like it was always meant to be ours. A round table is welcoming and I hope all family, friends and clergy we entertain feel this warmth and welcoming in our home.