03 Sep2005

Dressing up a table can be incredibly simple, or not. dress1Just like some folks know how to look good in jeans and a crisp white shirt, others project an air of a proud but bedraggled contract OFW in transit to Jagna, Bohol. A table should be set with the surroundings, menu and desired mood in mind. Flowers, candles or other items of interest are to table settings as garnishes of carved radishes or sprinklings of microgreens are to fancy plates of food at your nearest 3-star restaurant. In the past, I have had some table hits, and some slight misses. Last year I covered long tables in several layers of plain manila paper over which bowls of steamed crabs were laid out down the middle with smaller bowls of sliced lemons, melted butter, vinegar, chillis, etc. randomly placed for color and texture and use. With plain white plates I used large red kitchen towels as napkins and there were several crackers and crab picks to aid in the removal of crab meat.

On a recent trip to the beach, we used a blue and white theme dress2to the table for several day and night time meals. A graphic blue and white runner from the Easter Weaving School in Baguio (we just bought the fabric by the yard) ran the length of the table. We used simple white plates, clear heavy glasses and added blue hydrangeas and some white sea shells. At night, we added several candles in different vessels, smoked glass hurricane lamps, large multi-wick candles and votives in small glass containers. Candles almost always make a dinner table warmer because of the gentle glow of candle light. Breakfast the next morning was on blue plates. Overall, any of these table settings took less than 5 minutes to do and it made a significant difference to the meal, or at least I think so.

The items that make up your table need not be expensive. dress3While the finest crystal, china and silverware are noticeable and brilliant, a festive mood need not necessarily spell big bucks. As I go about my travels, I like to pick things up that may be useful on the Marketman table – discount fabrics that can be made into napkins or tablecloths, unusual vases, candle holders, name card holders, wine coasters, pickle dishes, etc. The Philippines is a superb place to shop for tableware…placemats made of local fibers are plentiful, colorful weavings, intricate baskets, stunning shells, etc. all figure heavily in our pantry…



  1. wysgal says:

    It’s great that you put as much focus into your presentation as you do your cooking.

    In a cocktail party I threw last Christmas I made some interesting centerpieces with a floating candle in a glass, some coiled foil, loose flowers, chocolate kisses, and roasted chestnuts. People kept on asking me though if they could eat the display (of course they could).

    Sep 3, 2005 | 7:07 pm


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  3. Wilson Cariaga says:

    Yes Marketman you’re right, shopping here (Philippines) for tableware is really nice and can be really exciting and you can dress up your table for different moods and occasions frequently because items are cheap. . . from table runners to glassware, plates and ceramics, mats and napkins, candles and ornaments and even flowers, you just have to work with your creativity. . .

    Sep 4, 2005 | 9:19 am

  4. belle says:

    You sure know how to enjoy life, with just simple settings, great food and good company could you ask for more. Hope one day we could organize a get-together of all of your fans marketman and finally meet the person who have started it all. What can you say about this marketman?

    Sep 4, 2005 | 4:40 pm

  5. Michael says:

    Your table settings are straight out of a magazine, marketman. Beautiful. Anyway, I encounter a few problems when setting up a table for a formal Filipino dinner. First, we can’t use european silverware because the soup spoons are just way too BIG. Some people are averse to eating rice with a spoon and fork maybe because we like drowning our rice in sabaw. I’d have to take sinigang out of the menu. Also, we have to keep the table decor to a minimum to save on space because we always eat a la famiglia. We don’t have a tradition of plating food. And finding nice tablecloths over 12′ is almost impossible. We’d have to settle for either place mats or a runner unless we order them.

    Sep 4, 2005 | 5:17 pm

  6. Sister says:

    If you need extra long or extra wide tableclothes check out decorative or upholstery fabric stores. European or decorative fabrics sometimes come in 110 inch widths, wide enough for any table including a skirt for a 60 inch round table without seams. You can just buy the length you need and have it hemmed, easy enough to do. You can easily find coordinating napkins or even better make 24″ square banquet size napkins, almost impossible to find in the Philippines.
    In the US Williams Sonoma and Sweitzer Linen catalogues carry tableclothes up to 166 inches long.

    Sep 6, 2005 | 1:29 am

  7. Marketman says:

    Belle, how kind of you to suggest…but not sure I want to go public just yet…heehee. Maybe we’ll have a contest of some sort like food trivia or find the recipe and the prize could be a get together for all the winners…no promises though!

    Sep 6, 2005 | 5:36 pm

  8. Mila says:

    Oooh, that would be a great idea. An eyeball of the blogger with his blog groupies. :)

    Sep 7, 2005 | 3:08 pm


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