Table connections…

Sometimes something seemingly mundane, like a kitchen table, can play a significant part in your family life, which you miss until you actually sit and think about it…

I can’t remember exactly what we used to eat when I lived at home, but there was a comforting regularity to it. Friday’s weren’t ‘Fish Friday’ in our house unless Dad was home. He was an Officer in the Navy and if there was a posting that Mum didn’t fancy accompanying him on, she and I would be based at our house in Norfolk and he would commute home for weekends.

‘Dad Fridays’ would either be fish and chips, picked up from the chippy near the station. Primary school age Emma would sit in the back of the car, tastebuds being tantalisingly teased by the salt and vinegar smothered, mouth-watering aroma from the newspaper wrapped parcels beside me.

Only the outer layer was newspaper and in the summer, when it was light enough for me to read the headlines, my life education was expanded by the lurid headlines of the News of the World, or whatever the publication of the week was for the chip shop. The Sunday Sport was a particular favourite of mine, I’m sure one of their headlines was something like ‘I gave birth to a Brussels sprout’!

Anyway, I digress…In case you’re wondering, the ‘or’ alternative was steak and chips, always accompanied by grilled tomato and peas and always cooked by Dad. He would tell Mum he had everything in hand and proceed to cook up a storm in the grill pan, often accompanied by a large fallout zone of washing up and discarded cooking implements. I was never quite sure that it was the night off for Mum that he espoused!

As we ate, they would always both remark that in restaurants, the waiting staff always assumed that the rare steak was Dad’s and the cremated one was Mum’s – when in fact it was the other way round. Chuckling at their own memories, they would work their way through the meal, finishing with contented smiles.

I meanwhile, was waiting for the big reveal of the Friday pudding – would it be Walls Vienetta or Bird’s Eye Arctic Roll? As a 1970’s housewife, my Mother had fully embraced the freezer and microwave revolution, with a Bejam visit now considered an essential part of her weekly shop.

I may not remember all the meals, but I do remember that we all sat at the table and ate at the same time, catching up with each other and creating the lynchpins that bound us together as a family.

So, many years later, when Andrew and I started our own family, meal time at the table was a tradition that we continued, with a shared love of cooking and food becoming part of our family DNA.

Now, as our rumble-tumble boys sweep in from University, dropping washing with one hand and pulling the fridge door open with the other, the ritual of meal times together seems ever more precious and something that I look forward to – all of us reconnecting at the heart of the house, the kitchen table.

I know that for many of our farmer friends, the farmhouse kitchen is the power hub of the house, fuelling and fortifying the team for the day, with meals often delivered to the fields in the busy harvest months. With my eldest working on a farmer/contractor team for the last couple of summers, I’ve also discovered that head-on-arms snoozes can be fitted in if the food isn’t on the table the minute they come in from a long day hauling bales.

We have a kitchen-cum-family room, split by a wall which is open at both ends, there’s a table in the kitchen side, and a table in the family side.

The wall between the rooms is the subject of an ongoing conversation between Andrew and me. Namely, do we take it out and open the room up into one large room, or do we leave it there and be thankful for the cook-mess hiding qualities of the wall when we have friends over for supper? Hmmmm…

It’s a conversation that has been going on for 14 years now, and I see no signs of it abating, the wall meanwhile stands resolutely solid…

Apart from high days and holidays, we eat in the kitchen side, but winter finds me gravitating to the table in the other side to work, especially when I’m writing. Snoozing dogs keep their watch by the woodburner and the kettle is in easy reach. I often light a candle to work by – enjoying the dropping shadows as the light disappears towards the end of the day.

The farmhouse we live in was built in the 1600’s and I can literally feel the imprint of many generations of workers returning home to the hearth of the kitchen and the inglenook fireplace. It’s a comforting imprint and I’m conscious that we are but generational guardians for a time, in turn adding our own family warmth and comfort to the time trap that lingers.

Obviously, not all the kitchen table times are idyllic, all families have their ups and downs, but in a time of downs, the table becomes the silent companion to many conversations and the support mechanism for copious mugs of tea. The familiar sight of an old wound to the table becomes a place to idly trace a finger up and down, finding solace in the repetitive action and anchoring yourself in the groove.

Somewhere, in the constancy of hundreds of years of imprinted memories, or even those of a much lesser time spent, there is the reassurance of a dawning realisation that this too shall pass and the kitchen table will host happy times again.

So for me, a lot of our family life revolves around the seeming day-to-day mundanity of the kitchen table. How about you?

I’d love to know in the comments below, what’s your family connector? I know that not everyone has kitchen tables, so if it’s not that for you, what is it your connector? Family walks, meals, a holiday together? Or maybe just the companionable silence of sitting in the sun together, chatting away and reconnecting?

Visited 1 times, 1 visit(s) today

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *