Dressing up a table can be incredibly simple, or not. Just 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 to 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. While 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 â€“ 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 tablewareâ€¦placemats made of local fibers are plentiful, colorful weavings, intricate baskets, stunning shells, etc. all figure heavily in our pantryâ€¦