This morning I had a flashback to a metal trivet that hung in my mother’s kitchen, right near the sink. I believe she placed it there when we moved in… and it didn’t budge until we sold the house fifty-five years later.
The trivet was black cast iron with a few flowers painted in red and yellow with some green leaves. White lettering read: Of all the places I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best.
Why is that??? Is it because of the power of the kitchen table?? Of all the tables strategically placed around our houses… coffee, dining, end, picnic, hall… what makes the kitchen table so special? I mean really… the dining room table gets all the glory. Called into service only on special occasions, it’s the Grand Duchess of the home in comparison to the Cinderella kitchen table.
The dining table gets to play dress up with the fancy china, crystal goblets, and silverware, while it is lovingly draped in beautiful flowing linens. Finishing touches of flowers and candles lend a formal feeling to the air. Family, friends, and guests gather around it and laugh, and tell stories. A magnificent turkey (or roast) is brought to the table with a flourish and greeted with ohs and ahs. Manners are on high alert and the meal ends with an extraordinary dessert! Wow!
Meanwhile… back in the kitchen, Cinderella has been relegated as a catch-all area. When the kitchen counter seems too small, the kitchen table steps up to fill the void. Dirty dishes, flour dust, seasonings, and food containers cover every available square inch. It took a beating, but still stands proud, happy to be of service.
The rest of the time the lowly kitchen table is the hub of family central. Kids spread their school books out and do their homework while dinner is being cooked by the parental unit in charge. Impromptu visitors gather around the table to chat over a cup of tea and slice of cake. Got a craft project to do? Spread everything out on the kitchen table. Need to roll out a pie crust? The kitchen table has plenty of room. Need to have a family discussion? Yup, the kitchen table is the place to hold it.
Every nick, scratch, pen mark, marker or crayon stoke means someone sat there and created a masterpiece. Oh, if only kitchen tables could talk… just THINK of the stories they could tell.
High-top kitchen counters are trying to push the table out of the lime light… but so far it hasn’t taken over rural America. It’s just not the same. Dinner time should be ‘family time’… sitting in a circle around a table encouraging conversation. Not all in a straight line staring straight ahead, or worse eating while watching someone else still cooking and cleaning.
If you knew my family life when our kids were small, the above statements would strike you as funny. Every night I had dinner on the table when my husband came home from work. Every night we would sit in our usual seats. Every night, after admonishing the kids about their elbows (or forearms) on the table, to chew with their mouths closed, to sit up straight, and eat their peas… he would ask each child what they learned new that day. At least once a month one child or other would leave the table in tears. Once, a little girl eating over one night was the one to get up and run upstairs in tears. I GLARED at my husband.
That kitchen table heard me assert myself one night and declare I purchased a much desired Mini-Van WITHOUT my husband’s permission. It beamed as my daughter introduced us to her serious boyfriend.. who soon became her husband. It served as a Christmas tree one year when I couldn’t afford one and stacked the donated Poinsettias in a pyramid in the center. It became a support when my son and I held a very serious conversation through the use of post-it notes and a pen… because we didn’t want to speak out loud and be overheard. Years and years of memories were made at that table.
The kitchen is considered the ‘heart’ of the home. I guess that’s true… and I guess that is why guests feel so more at ease there. Life is less formal in the kitchen. Coming in the backdoor is considered an honor… being deemed a friend as opposed to a guest. It’s kind of like taking a peek behind the curtain… at where the magic happens… a happy place.
Looking back, I find it strange my mom’s trivet hung on a wall in a kitchen without a table… or any space at all to visit while she cooked. It was a dark and cold north facing room without a hint of comfort. My family ate every meal at the formal dining table. Hmmm… Curious.
What stories would YOUR kitchen table tell if it could speak??