What do I mean when I say, “The Table”?
I’m discovering it’s more than a place to eat. It’s an experience where we share not only food, but also ourselves. We have conversations. We slow down and listen. It’s an opportunity to nourish our bodies and our souls.
If you’ve traveled abroad, particularly to places like Italy and France, you’ve probably noticed that meals aren’t rushed affairs. People linger...and not just because the wine is flowing. There’s a communion of sorts that we as Americans often neglect.
I asked a friend, Sandra, who was born in Italy, to describe The Table in her home country. She says:
“Growing up in Italy, every meal was an opportunity to engage with the family. After a long day of work or school, sharing what happened during the day was the way our family bonded. It was good for the body and the mind, a chance to get closer, relax, discuss problems and find solutions together. Every time we go back to Italy to visit my parents, the joy of spending time around the table, without thinking ‘what’s next,’ is medicine for our busy souls.”
Ceil, an American friend who works in Italy several months a year, had this to say:
“The Table is one of the things I love about Italy. Italians prioritize taking time to enjoy the company of family and friends. Meals together are two to three hours, served around the dining table, one course at a time, over four or five courses. The emphasis is on conversation, connecting with one another, and community. It's life-giving!”
This has made me think about how I practice this concept of The Table in my everyday life. For the past 34 years, Houston and I have loved having people over for dinner. It’s typically nothing fancy. Instead, the focus has been on creating experiences where people feel welcome, no matter their background or point of view. In fact, it’s what we love most about hosting parties! The diversity of the guests creates such a rich layer to the evening.
We also value The Table experience at our farm. When I’m preparing to host a Table event, I look forward to delicious food and wine, stories from gifted artists and engaging conversations with those present. I always leave with a sense of community.
I’ve come to realize that while I value The Table so highly with groups of people, I don’t always place a priority on the experience when it’s just my husband and me. With four adult kids, who have homes of their own, most of our meals are caught on the fly - early breakfast for the early riser, a sandwich for lunch, and snacks for each of us throughout the day.
But when do we set aside time to really experience community around the table in our home, without guests? Like so many other things, I’m learning from my kids. With one chef and a host of foodies in our family, I’ve learned the value of good quality, locally sourced food. In fact, with those values in mind, my daughter planned meals for me this week, shopping list included. So there’s no excuse on the food front.
Now I find myself wondering, though: If I’m preparing actual meals, will Houston and I sit down and eat at the same time? What are we missing by not doing that? What might we share, discuss or experience if we sit at the table for more than 10 minutes? Before you jump to conclusions, we have a great relationship. It’s just that I haven’t been intentional - not only in preparing healthy meals, but also allowing for time to sit and be together at least once a day.
How about you? What’s been your Table experience? I’ll let you know next month how well we’re doing, practicing “The Table” in our home.
Sherry Asbury Clark is Co-Founder of Purdon Groves and a freelance writer. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info on Purdon Groves, a farm, table, venue and retreat property, check out purdongroves.com, visit their Instagram or Facebook pages, or call 404-606-1243.