by Muffet Billyard-Leake, Muffet & Louisa –
In our busy lives today, we often find that less is more. As we fill our days with work and activities, there is a nostalgia for simplicity and comfort. We hold small intimate dinner parties rather than big parties, making time to see family and friends without a whole lot of time to prepare. Obviously, the food and the company are the most important things, but a well-thought-out table can add elegance and comfort.
We are so lucky to live in a place that has such an abundance of wonderful fresh food most of the year. I like to plan meals that reflect the season and the foods that are readily available, and it is less stressful to keep to recipes that you know and have used before. Unless your friends are very adventurous and forgiving – this is not the time for experiments!
Another secret of a successful dinner party is to invite guests who are compatible (not all your friends may have similar interests) and prepare your table and meal so that you can enjoy it too. The relaxed host is the best host, and gatherings over a meal are meant to be pleasurable for everyone.
A beautiful table does not have to take time, or a lot of money, to create. Successful hosts are using the things they love, old and new; if settings reflect you and your tastes, you will feel comfortable. The trends today are to natural fibres and neutral tones, but if you enjoy strong, vibrant colours, then go that direction – just don’t get too busy – meals with friends and family are meant to be calming! Dinner tables should have enough space for the easy passing of food; bread in baskets and small individual butter pots add ease and elegance. Decanters or interesting jugs can be used for water and wine. Cloth napkins are always preferable but if paper is chosen, it should reflect the theme of the meal or table setting. If table space is limited, food can be set on an adjoining sideboard – or even long kitchen island and guests can help themselves. The serving space should reflect the beauty and theme of the dining room table.
Flowers and candles are lovely additions, but not right in the middle of the table unless they are low enough for guests to see across. Perhaps use unscented tea lights down the middle of the table and also make sure that your flowers are not too fragrant – remember the meal with all its delicious aromas is the star!
In the immortal words of Julia Child: “Bon appétit!”