The Hungry Hoard At My Table

As another round of holiday meals is approaching I thought I’d share…

Some of my fondest memories are of large holiday gatherings. When the gathering is happening in my house you can be sure that I’m going all out to make it a special occasion. I plan out my menu. I shop with careful consideration of every part of the meal. I try to be innovative and definitely festive. Being a designer I take special care to decorate and present my creation in a way that I hope will bring delight to my guests the moment they see my handiwork. It is with great pride and anticipation that I put myself through the rigors of preparation and presentation. While this might sound like a lot of self-inflicted angst, it is always a labor of love. The moment I hear the praise of “what a lovely table,” or “something smells good,” I know I’m on the track to success.

There is one element of this process that I have no control over. It is the hungry hoard that pounces on my table before I’ve had a chance to thoroughly secure it. I’ve learned over the years that you can never let your guard down. From the moment you start setting the table and the time is approaching for serving and plating a meal you are obligated to call in the troops and fortify the table with whatever means necessary to protect and defend your presentation. Sounds like wartime strategy. Trust me, it is. You may be thinking that I’m being a little too uptight about all of this. Understand, I’m not talking about the occasional swiping of a radish off of the table. Or a finger dipping into sauce to see how it tastes. Let me make it perfectly clear to all that would think I’m making a big deal out of nothing – locusts have more manners than these people.

Let me paint a picture for you. The concept of this piece is a serene setting at a dinner table. The tablecloth and napkins have been chosen to match the centerpiece to perfection. Candles are flickering with a certain elegance that calms the soul. The place settings adorn the table like charms on a bracelets. Each setting has a meaning because it has been placed at the table for a specific person. The food that has been prepared, with much attention to detail and love, is served in dishes and bowls that are steaming and ready to be enjoyed. Each bowl is finished off with a touch of pride – some parsley on the mashed potatoes, some lemon zest on the carrots, a touch of paprika on the chicken to give it some color. The glasses sparkle like a string of lights. The silverware is set with precision to finish off the table. This is a picture of love. Whoever the artist is, it is obvious that they care deeply for those who will soon partake in this bounty.

Can you feel the love? Does a twang of pride resonate with you? Is the labor behind this obvious to you? If so, you are not like the people who will soon descend on my table. Before I can get the table set, someone is swiping a glass because they find it easier than going to the glass cabinet. The silverware starts to move about as people mingle around the table. The candles that accompany the centerpiece are barely lit when the hoard starts squaring up at the table. As I try to quickly prepare each dish and place it on the table, they are twitching and stomping about like horses being loaded into the starting gate. If I’m lucky I can get the last bowl set on the table before it all goes bad. My intent is to complete my masterpiece so that my audience can bask in my creative genius.

Instead I am met with hands flailing about as they descend on my glorious creation with wanton abandon. There is no adherence to any form of etiquette. There is no attempt to savor the food that’s been set before them. Any attempt at saying grace or any other form of thanksgiving is futile. More often I am left standing there with bowls of food in my hands attempting to complete the presentation process. I beg and plead for everybody to wait one sec until I’m done. Rushing back and forth from the kitchen to the table I summon up all the skills I have available to my being. Speed, mastery of cooking, negotiating tactics, and ultimately bribery (dessert).

In the end it’s all for naught. I’m resolved to the fact that there is nothing a mere mortal can do to quell this feeding frenzy. All attempts at a civilized gathering are futile. It was yet again my own naive assumption that I could overcome the odds and finally enjoy that picture I’ve had painted in my mind for so many years. Rest assured, I will try again, and again, and again, and again… I may have lost the battle, but my war wages on. Does any of this ring true for any of you? I’m curious to know if anyone else has encountered the difficulties I face. It would be great to hear from you. If for nothing else than to know that my guests are not the only people on this planet with less than stellar manners, I implore you to pass along your own tales of holiday gathering ineptitude.

By Gret Boyd

 

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