Many of us have been fortunate enough to live in a place that has a dining room table. Whether you lived in the city, country, in a house or an apartment there probably was an area called the dining room. Even in homes or apartments that did not have a designated dining room, there was a table called the dining room table.
For some of us in our youth many of the lunches and all of the late evening meals were served on dining room tables. For those homes and apartments that had a designated dining room area the evening meal was served on the dining table. If the table was used for an everyday meal, the set up on the table was pretty basic. There would be enough plates, cups and utensils necessary to eat the meal. The table was usually large enough for the amount of people who lived in the house or apartment. As time went on most dining room tables came with extensions. That way if more people showed up when the family grew there was a way to make the table bigger. For those families that could afford it, there were chairs for everyone. The chairs would match the design of the table. During some of the holiday seasons the dining room table would be decorated with the theme of the holiday. If the dining room table was in the dining room there was usually a cabinet or a china cabinet that held the many dishes, silverware, cups and bowls that were used for special occasions. Even middle-class families seem to find the money to buy some nice dishes or as it was called China that filled up the cabinet. Usually the cabinet had a glass door or glass surrounding the contents inside. So it became a showcase for the China inside.
I think from about 1948 through 2000 it was a very popular room in most home designs. And many of those middle class families spent the extra money to put the very nice-looking dishes inside it to be displayed when somebody came by. Some of the more affluent families had a full set of China that matched the holiday. Many had dishes, bowls and cups that had a Christmas theme. Some had bowls and cups that had a Halloween theme. Many had dishes and cups that have a USA theme.
As time went on the dining room and the dining room table became a place that was rarely used. It seemed like the kitchen area got bigger and fancier. Soon all meals were served in the kitchen and at the kitchen table. More and more as computers invaded the home and the phones became more like computers, even the kitchen table seemed to be losing any business. Currently, most households have multiple computers or smart phones. And so as the meal was prepared and distributed each different member of the family would grab their meal and go to the respective eating places. There was a time in my life that I utilized a TV tray to place my meal on while watching the television. Therefore the kitchen table soon became like the dining room table, rarely visited.
It did seem like many of the serious conversations among family members would occur at the dining room table. And then when the dining room table became unused, those conversations happen at the kitchen table. During the era of the dining room table, the table went from a basic design to some very expensive furniture. And many of the China cabinets were purchased so that they match the dining room table and chairs. As the dining room table went from an everyday use to an occasional use area the norm of setting at the dining room table went from a casual affair to a somewhat formal affair. It is very unusual anymore for someone to set down at a dining room table wearing a T-shirt and jeans. Somehow everyone dresses a little nicer and the table setting is a little more formal when sitting at the dining room table. Even in today’s market many of the homes and some of the apartments still have a dining room in the design and layout.
But it has been my experience that the dining room is so rarely used that families today turn it into another living area. Maybe it is a place to put something as large as a pool table or an area that holds all the kids toys. Some folks make it a home office area. The large matching table and chairs along with the china cabinet seemed to disappear from the dining room area.
Besides the fact that a dining room table, chairs and a china cabinet full of dishes is a very expensive adventure, families today do not share the old tradition of sitting around the dining room table and talking about the days issues. If anything the family of today will gather around the kitchen table or at a restaurant where they would eat their meal and engage in conversation.
Of all the homes that I have owned there is always been a dining room with the dining room table and chairs. In most of the recent homes the dining room also included a china cabinet full of dishes cups and almost never used. The dining room almost becomes a still life picture that I view on a daily basis. When there is an occasion where I am going to use the dining room table, the table was covered with a table cloth. Even though the table itself is made out of a very hard would that is big covered by protective layers of urethane, the table is covered with a cloth to protect it from any damage. And the tablecloth cannot be just any old cloth it must be able to match the dining room table and chairs or to represent the holiday. Once again these cloths are not cheap and are reserved just for the use in the dining room.
Recently, while some family members were staying at my house, I had an opportunity to use the dining room table. While my wife and my sister-in-law worked very hard on preparing a meal they also set up the dining room. First of all they had to find the dining room table extension. This is usually a large and heavy piece of wood that matches the exterior the dining room table itself. Next, now that the table is bigger, I had to go and find two more chairs to go around the table. Most dining room tables come with six chairs, this occasion called for eight chairs. So I ran out to the shop and found a couple of folding chairs, they did not match the dining room table chairs but they were needed to be able to accommodate all the guests.
The dining room and the dining room table served as a great setting for a wonderful gathering of people. The food and its presentation were supreme, a place for everything and everything in its place. Probably, like most gatherings there is an announcement that the food is ready and request for the guest to go to the table. Usually those people are engaging in conversation away from the dining room. And so it is a form of herding cats to get the guest to slowly move to the dining room area. After some more ongoing conversations find a way to end, a prayer said followed by a course of Amen. Finally, the guests began to fill their plates with the wonderful and abundant food presented on the dining room table. One of the advantages of using a dining room table is that it is usually large and wide and it can handle all the many dishes that are presented at the dinner. During some of the dinners at the dining room table there is an abundant amount of conversation between the guests. Every now and then somebody will break out with a toast, usually directed towards the host declaring an appreciation for all the hard work. Sometimes it is hard to hear what is being said at the table as there are many conversations occurring at the same time between the different guests. It seems like it is more likely that women are talking to women and men are talking to men. If children are at the table they may or may not be included in any conversations. It seems to me that there is little debate occurring at the table and more of a storytelling session.
Eventually, the main course and side dishes have been consumed. This presents an opportunity for the announcement of dessert. And even though one person may be on a diet, it seems unkind to refuse the offer of desert, especially, when it is announced that the dessert was homemade. During some of the dinner table event, there is the opportunity to experience the offer of some wine or other alcoholic beverage. This is usually done with some grand gesture and some specialized glasses. It has been my good fortune that the tradition of the women of the family being in charge of the dinner has been continued. After it is announced that the dinner was ready and I do my job as to herd the people to the dining room table, I am always amazed at how beautiful the setting looks. And then with great pride it was time for my wife (and at this event my sister-in-law) to bring in the many different home-cooked meals which they carefully placed on the table. Each time this happens it seems like a bountiful meal and the table quickly fills up with some delicious delights.
I know and the guests know that my wife and her sister worked some very long and hard hours to make this event happen. Just like anyone that has worked hard on an event, they also wait for a response to all of the food. It has been my thought that the best way to show them how good the food taste is to make it disappear in front of them. It is especially one of the exciting moments of the meal when the dessert arrives and once again the best way to show my appreciation is to make sure it disappears.
The dining room and dining room table that began as a place for the family to meet on every day events has now become a place where memories are made and stories find their beginnings. Even though the dining room itself has become more like a still life picture, it also stirs some good memories in my mind. It is one of the rooms that help me define a home. I would imagine that the dining room and the dining room table will become just a luxury for the homes of the future. But for those homes that have the dining room and the dining table, that place will be where many stories are born and memories are made.