The enjoyment of great food depends on how a meal is presented almost as much as it how it is cooked. It doesn’t matter if a dish is prepared over the course of a whole afternoon or comes from a takeout container, it will taste better if it is eaten on the dining room table, using real plates and flatware set on top of some placemats or a tablecloth. I don’t feel the same way eating my morning cereal if I lug the bowl upstairs in front of the computer as I do if I eat it sitting on the dining room table or the kitchen bar.
No one in my family made me more aware of the importance of a well-set table than my grandfather. For years, I watched him take out impeccably kept kitchen linens, and set the table, with all the flatware, wine goblets, water glasses, etc. It didn’t matter if you were a kid, there was always room for everyone in the dining table, and you would get all the forks and spoons that were needed to enjoy that meal. My grandparents were truly invested in their cooking and entertaining, a trait they passed on to my mother, and she further did to my sister and me. We take pride on being good hosts, on setting the table correctly.
I was at the hospital early enough on Sunday to help feed him a couple of spoonfuls of hot cereal. The rest of the day was spent in a blur, between laughs and stories, nervous glances, and visits with family I seldom get to see. I came home, took a short nap, and cooked dinner. When it was ready, I went upstairs to the linen closet and grabbed two placemats and matching napkins. Out of the cupboard came my grandparents’ china (their wedding gift), the ‘fancy’ flatware, and even a couple of napkin rings. It seemed a fitting way to celebrate a man who enjoyed great meals and traditions.