Table fit for a king

Lucia Falcone
November 29, 2007

I have a penchant for elegant tables and their coverings. My walk-in linen closet is full: the last time I counted, there were more than 100 tablecloths. I delve into my past to find the reason for my peculiarity, but all I come up with are memories of my childhood that underline the importance of a beautiful table to feed the soul, and a fresh, well-prepared meal to feed the body.

 

Two times a day, throughout the year, while growing up in Venice, I watched my mother set the table with a white cotton tablecloth and napkins, glasses, ceramic dishes, silverware. A bottle of red wine sat on each side of the table and next to them two pitchers of fresh tap water. And to make the table look beautiful, my proud mother placed a bouquet of fresh flowers from her aunt’s garden in the center as if we were expecting company, which we often were.

 

My gregarious papa invited people he knew, and even those he didn’t know, to join us for lunch or dinner. With guests and nine hungry mouths to feed, mother’s wholesome food went by only once before the serving dishes were empty. Just the same, our family gatherings meant embarking on a culinary adventure where the eye met the stomach with equal satisfaction.

 

As a young girl, I only partially understood that the setting of a pretty table was not just mother’s daily tradition, but the ultimate expression, the finishing touch on a delicious meal within the Italian culture. Eventually, I realized that cooking is not merely about food, but also about the gathering of family on any given day and the sharing that occurs when the unexpected guest is invited to stay. It’s about establishing long lasting relationships around an elegant table where the sparkling glasses, the impeccable tablecloth, the flowery centerpiece, and the flickering candles symbolize the Italian concept of la bella vita.

 

With the holidays coming, I’m anticipating with eagerness the enjoyment of having family and friends around my dinner table, and I would like to share with The Florentine readers un tocco di semplice eleganza, my Italian way of wishing everyone a loving, warm and elegant holiday season.

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