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The Table Comes First: Family life does not start with a sofa

Adam Gopnik, the New Yorker’s roving food writer, has just written the most lively and enjoyable food book of the year, The Table Comes First. His elegant and original, punchy observations follow the subtitle: Family, France, and the meaning of food. Except it doesn’t quite. Fergus Henderson, the British restaurateur and campaigner for eating the whole animal, provides the title. ‘ I don’t understand how a young couple can begin life by buying a sofa or a television, don’t they know the table comes first?’ Perfectly put.

Kitchen making begins by placing the table in front of a window with the best view. Sanity begins when you sit down to eat. The world with all its distractions and bad news is suddenly at bay, sidelined, on hold. A sense of relief gives way to the prospect of sociability, warm words (you can hope for with reason although it does not always work out) and tasteful pleasures. The table represents the aura of family and customs of civilization, whatever the culture or ethnic tribe you belong to Even if it’s a small table – and in some ways this is more intimate, no kitchen should be without one. It might even be worth thinking about two smaller tables – one is often in use as a non-food shuffle of books, papers, laptops and objects of daily life, like a clearing station for in transit. Having two tables saves clearing up every time you want to eat. For our own home I would rather sacrifice countertop space and make sure we were properly tabled-up. I try to persuade clients of this, though not usually successfully!

Raising the status and respect for the table and what it represents to the household and the value of eating together, whether once a day or regularly during the week, gets my vote.


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