Turning the table


Painted pine table for sale.


It comes with a bit of baggage. Lousie and I bought this table when we moved into our house in Clontarf.  There were only two and a half of us back then in 1995, Louise was expecting our first child.  Originally it was a pale pine, varnished.  It has a flip top, so it can fit easily through doorways.  We also had a couple of bentwood chairs (unpainted, dark mahogany colour) one of which you can see in the photograph.

It is a solid table, and well used.  We raised three children and a dog around this table.  It was a large feature of our small kitchen at the time.  Later on we extended the back of the house, and were able to make use of a larger kitchen table.  This one went into the music room and was used as a study table or a toy table.  Over the years it changed.  The pale pine darkened in the sunlight to a rich honey hue.  It picked up little dents and scratches and scuffs along the way, like crows feet around a persons eyes.

It made the journey with us to Tipperary, but has languished somewhat on the sidelines.  It is not getting any use.  So Louise decided that this would be her first project in her new furniture painting business.  She filled in the accumulated dents in the pine and sanded it down where necessary.  Then gave it a good set of undercoat and overcoat treatments with some really expensive paint (Farrow & Ball).

Then she learned how difficult it is to take an attractive photo of an object;  the importance of staging, so that people get a sense of the size, elegance and colour.  How to upload media to websites, the language descriptors that work, selecting a price point and so on.

Up it went for sale and less than a week later, the call has come, and the table is going to a new home.  A lovely lady who is downsizing to a smaller home is looking for a kitchen table.  So our old friend has come full circle and will take pride of place in the most important room in the house again.

Do objects have memories?  Can the accumulation of experiences somehow imbue an object with a character beyond it’s simple functional presence.  Can a table have an aura?  If so then this table has good karma.

Do you have a beloved old piece of furniture that deserves a new lease of life?  If so, make contact and perhaps Louise can help.

For those of you who spotted the cushion, yes it has a story too.  It was hand sewn by my daughter for her home economics examination last year (she got an A of course).  It says “Dream Big Dreams”.  I don’t know if that is for sale, but if you really, really have to have it……….

Perhaps the World Ends Here; by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Food Ritual 2: Inclusion and Exclusion


Food is a means of including and excluding people.  The most inclusive groups of people tend to have the most liberal tastes in food.  Everyone is welcome at the table, and you are welcome to serve any food you like.

Jewish Rabbis in middle age Europe fought a constant battle to hold the faithful in their religion.  Young people who fraternised with Christians were at risk of marrying out.  So the Rabbis reinforced observance of the kosher laws to keep their congregations intact.  If you cannot eat with people, you do not keep company with them.

The Spanish inquisition saw this also.  When ex-Jews converted to Catholicism the church in Spain monitored their food consumption.   If they did not roast a leg of pork from time to time they risked being accused of back-sliding.

So you can be included, or excluded from a “tribe” by the food you eat.  Kosher, Halal, Vegetarian, Vegan, Fruitarian, Pescatarian, South-Beach, Atkins, Weightwatchers.

In societies with “untouchable” castes, there are strict rules guiding who sits at what table.  In societies where food is eaten with the right hand, as in many Arabic countries, if a thief has his right hand removed, it is a far more dreadful punishment than the loss of the limb.  He is now excluded from dining with other people.  He must eat alone.  He is banished from the table.

An invitation to the table is an inclusion in society.  In the middle ages in Europe you could tell the status of a person by where they sat in the Lords hall, what foods they were permitted to eat, what cloth they were permitted to wear, in which colours, right down to what type of bird they could hunt with.

It was considered a great sin and shame to breach the laws of hospitality.  A guest under your roof must be fed.  The poor regularly appeared at the homes of the wealthy to beg alms from a feast, relying on the shame factor of the host if they were sent away hungry.

Stories abounded of mean minded hosts or their stewards, who would refuse to feed the poor, or charge them a fee for the table leftovers.

In one story from Middle Age Ireland a man starved himself to death on the doorstep of his enemy, to condemn his enemy to a lifetime of shame for permitting a guest to die on his threshold.

It is very important, to have a place in society, to eat with others.  In modern western society a lot of old people end up living on their own.  Volunteers give their time and effort to deliver Meals on Wheels to these people.  But it would be better to deliver the person to the meal, than the meal to the person.

Dinner Guest: Me   by Langston Hughes

I know I am
The Negro Problem
Being wined and dined,
Answering the usual questions
That come to white mind
Which seeks demurely
To Probe in polite way
The why and wherewithal
Of darkness U.S.A.–
Wondering how things got this way
In current democratic night,
Murmuring gently
Over fraises du bois,
“I’m so ashamed of being white.”

The lobster is delicious,
The wine divine,
And center of attention
At the damask table, mine.
To be a Problem on
Park Avenue at eight
Is not so bad.
Solutions to the Problem,
Of course, wait.