Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

{dinner etiquette and hosting}

I'm a firm believer that the way we are brought up around the dinner table will affect us for the rest of our lives. It's not simply a matter of eating, rather it's connected to how we approach the ritual of sitting down together which encompasses polite conversation, conviviality, and of course eating-related activities. But eating involves so much more: food presentation and the food itself (is it prefab, a tv dinner, or homemade?) The atmosphere is just as important: is there a tv blaring somewhere? are there candles on the table? do you have proper cloth napkins? is there nice music playing? flowers on the table?
{I'm kind of obsessed with table settings, for more see my board on pinterest}

Linked to this is of course how we entertain and how we like to entertain. If eating your daily meal is celebrating the people around you, appreciating the small details and taking time out of your day to converse, savour your food, and slow down, then your entertaining style will likely reflect this as well.
{my family around the dinner table in the 90s (minus me)}

My mum is very down to earth--spending half of her life aboard ship, she has to be. But that doesn't mean that all of the things listed above are unimportant. Indeed, they are crucial to the running of a tight ship (metaphorically and realistically) and the maintenance of a 40+ year relationship with my father. They sit down for all meals, with cloth napkins & a tablecloth. Candles are lit every night and wine is enjoyed... Food presentation is also essential, so that my mum always provides some sort of garnish--whether it's merely a few pieces of cilantro and a tomato accompanying their scrambled eggs on a Monday morning, or a strawberry on the rim of the orange glass.
Equally important is the quality of food--my mum always makes homemade bread. After a day of sanding and refinishing their hardwood floors, the other day, I called and asked her what was for supper: she was making a roast lamb, rather than ordering take-out like normal humans would do. I love it.
My mum said that she learned these things from her mum--my grandmother Eva would get changed for dinner every night. Similarly, the little things are also important, which she learned from her mum and are now engrained in me, such as the butter knife so you don't get crumbs in your butter dish and of course grape scissors (or at least trimmed grapes) so that everybody can take a little bunch of grapes rather than leaving an ugly carcass on the table (!)

Anyway, I head home this week to visit my parents and they are hosting a little soirée. They've only recently moved to Nova Scotia so are still getting to know people. I simply *love* the invite and their ideas for a good evening:

"We would be delighted if you could join us for a ‘soiree’ on Saturday, August 23rd.  Our youngest daughter, Leah, will be here for a visit from London (Italian Renaissance Art History lecturer) [...]

Another reason for celebration is the ongoing renovations at Gaudeamus which proceed apace.  Who knows? Perhaps a new roof by then but no guarantees of a paint job.  Your constructive criticism and suggestions will be gratefully accepted.

Musical entertainment of the collaborative kind will be provided, good cheer will flow and conversation of the most scintillating sort is expected.  John and Mary will be on hand and we have invited John to bless our new home.

As I’m sure you know, Gaudeamus in Latin means “Rejoice” so we intend to do this with your welcome company. "

The follow-up email gets even better:

"Dear Friends,

We are excited that you will be joining us a week Saturday (August 23rd ) for a ‘soiree’ at Gaudeamus.

Also, in view of a “get to know each” quiz held at some time during the course of the evening, could you please drop us a line about something you (or a family member) did which we are not likely to know about?  Something famous, infamous or somewhere in between!  Tea with the queen? Contended in the Iditarod (dog sled race)? Short-listed for the Booker Prize? Insights of this nature will be greatly appreciated by those of us wishing to get to know you better!
(Please email such nuggets no later than Tuesday, August 19th)

Looking forward to your company.

M `n` M"

Following are some pictures of my own dinner-parties:


{my mum carving a roast when she visited for my knee surgery}

{kisses for the chef}

{cousins BBQ}
well, bon appétit!

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