Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How to set the table

Does this task strike you as simple? meaningless? unimportant? Well, take a second look. This chore is a key example of the well-run household where I grew up and learned so keenly from my mother.

One of the most striking parts of our routine for setting the table was that we did it the night BEFORE! This preparation made breakfast time go more smoothly. My mother had two sets of flatware and dinnerware, so that, if one set was in the dishwasher, there would be no excuse for not setting the table for the next meal. In short, part of cleaning up after dinner was setting the table for breakfast the next day.

Each place was set completely with three pieces of flatware: knife, fork, and spoon. We used paper napkins when we were very young, but it was not long before she graduated us to cloth napkins held in place with a personalized ring. Juice cups were turned upside down and plates were placed in the warmer.

There was an intricate schedule that we all understood and operated under. Division of labor and the laws of supply and demand were demonstrated clearly in our little eco-system. There is no need to record the minute details, but we six children knew what was expected of us and there were consequences when one's obligation was not completed properly.

This is home economics at its finest.


  1. What a great idea to set the breakfast table the night before. I was surprised recently when a friend was over. She asked to help and I set the plates and flatware out and asked her to set the table. Dana, she didn't know how!! I don't say this to judge her - she hadn't been trained. It's just something that I had taken for granted that everyone knew. (My friend is 50+)

    I have always enjoyed the place settings when you post a picture of a menu item on your blog. Those small, daily graces tell your family that they are important, and that eating together is a feast.

    Bravo on a *wonderful* post!

  2. Eating together as a family at a "set" table is one or the most important things you can do to keep your family strong.