Entertaining well at home need not be expensive. In fact, I find that I feed more folks better food, for less than a meal in a decent restaurant, when I invite them home for dinner. Plus you can linger and chat all you want without neighbors overhearing your juicy conversations and eat with your hands if that is preferableâ€¦ Entertaining usually includes dressing up your table a bit. Which typically means there is a centerpiece, and traditionally that meant some flowers. But it doesnâ€™t necessarily have to be flowers and it doesnâ€™t necessarily have to cost an arm and a leg. As I get older, I stray further and further from the traditional and have experimented with more unusual centerpieces, often with interesting results. I completely understand why many painters from the past 5+ centuries have focused on still life paintings of fruit, flowers and produceâ€¦their shapes are so natural, colors so striking and form so comfortable. But most traditional oil paintings or even photographs tend to feature western produceâ€¦ say a bowl of cherries, some plump grapes, a ceramic vase filled with sunflowersâ€¦
So here are three different centerpieces I played with this past weekend at the beach. I didnâ€™t have any flowers because we were to be there less than 36 hours so it seemed a waste to enjoy them for so brief a period. Instead, I had all of those great produce finds from the previous post. Everything except the rambutans were a different shade of green, which made putting it all together a real breeze. All of them would have cost less than PHP70 if you had purchased the stuff just for a centerpieceâ€¦ but since I will also eat all of them, these centerpieces effectively cost me nothing! The first, up top, is a huge, thick but shallow glass bowl that holds patolas, dalandans, kalamansi, chilies and miniature ampalayas. It looked pretty good to me! On the same table, I tried massing produce in white marble â€œboatsâ€ that I inherited from my mom. These modern â€œbancasâ€ date back to the 1970s yet look so appropriate in our pared down beach house nearly 40 years later! I just piled them up with chilis and ampalayas and they looked pretty cool. Use light green placemats, white plates, green napkins and stainless silverware and you have a simple, inexpensive table setting.
Finally, I tried to use the same components in a wooden pedestal stand made from light wood painted white (overruns or rejects from a Filipino exporter that I bought for very little many years ago; they arenâ€™t straight, but that adds to their charm). In this case, the height added a bit more drama to the arrangement, though this is probably more appropriate for a buffet or side table since guests would have to â€œtalk overâ€ the arrangement if it were the centerpiece. What is striking about these arrangements to me is the fact that they use whatever was available in the local markets, didnâ€™t cost much, looked quite soothing because they were varying shades of one color (green) and took very little time to assembleâ€¦ Whatâ€™s more, everything was edible and consumed in the days that followed!!!