A Well-Dressed Table

March 18, 2010 · 16 comments

A bowl of steaming beef stew can be one of the most profound expressions of “I love you” some people will ever receive, or give. And how that meal is served can mean the difference between communicating “Here’s your damn dinner,” and “You make my knees weak, and I’ll look after you as best I can for the rest of my life.”

But even if that doesn’t motivate you to spend a few bucks and take a little time in setting aside a delightful corner for delicious peace and sustenance, here’s a little secret that might get you there.


People wouldn’t be so fat if they dressed their table better.

This core tenant from the excellent book French Women Don’t Get Fat appeals to both my artistic soul that desires to be saturated with Beauty and my artistic backside that desires to fit into my favorite Not Your Daughter’s Jeans.


Her theory in a peanut shell: my spirit craves a baseline of aesthetic pleasure.

By creating an intentional focus on the pleasures available on the peripheral leading to the moment of swallowing a forkful of mashed potato, I can expand the sensual experience and satisfaction to the point of almost being full before I bend my elbow for that first bite.


What a gift! I now give myself an extra ten minutes at the market to find a cheese we’ve never tried before or choose a perfect field-ripened tomato. We hover over that pot of simmering fragrant bouillon, and imagine the one herb that will make this particular chicken soup unique and delightful, never before created, anywhere. I light some candles and savor the moment the wick catches. Sometimes I’ll remember to pick a new CD, or choose a new angle for the napkin, or place the bread so it catches the light and glows.

I don’t remember to be this intentional every time, but when I do, the meal becomes a thing of Beauty.


And if the idea has appeal but seems a bit over the top for you, here’s an easier approach: turn off the TV.


Budget-Friendly Items for a

Well Dressed Table


Sur La Table Deruta-Style Dinner Plate

BTW, this plate is a brilliant “portion control” aid: it’s the size of a regular dinner plate, but since a substantial portion of the surface area is decorative, it all but screams “Put the food on the white part, Chef!” Also, research shows that a higher color contrast between plate and the food served creates the perception that you’re eating more than you actually are, which in the case of bubbly cheesy lasagna is a good thing for those trying to keep their waistlines in check.

Bistro 18/10 Stainless Steel Flatware

Preferences in flatware are extremely personal, so while this particular design—a pattern that balances between classic and contemporary—appeals to us, you may find others that suit your fancy better. Regardless of the style specifics, make sure to have flatware that feels great in your hand and your mouth. No calories there!

Tip: shifting to something even just a little heavier than you’re accustomed to will bring an awareness and intentionality to every bite.

Washable Linen Napkins

Repeat after me and then write on the chalk board 100 times: “I will not use paper towels as napkins ever again.”

Here’s the math: paper towels used as napkins are thrown out after the meal. Ergo: eat too fast… make a mess on your face… wipe with a disposable item that gets chucked after dinner. NO PENALTY.

Cloth napkins have to be washed, dried, folded, and put away, and no one wants to do that more than they have to. Ergo: use cloth napkins, but slow down the meal so every forkful is placed purposefully in your pie hole… make a point of not splashing sauces around the corners of your mouth… give your stomach time to catch up to the program… feel full, happy and satisfied sooner, and eat less.

Tip: Using cool unmatched napkin rings that are person specific can extend the frequency of laundering over several meals. You don’t want to use someone else’s napkin—ick!—but no one minds using their own over again for a meal or two.

Premium Restaurant Tablecloth

Interestingly, the same study mentioned above also found that minimizing the color contrast between the serving plates and the tablecloth or placemat helps dial back servings by as much as 10%. Maybe this is why fine restaurants choose white plates against white tablecloths: the combination together gives the best shot at creating the illusion that a smaller portion looks bigger than when served against other color combinations, leaving the customer sated without feeling stuffed.

Restaurant Red Wine Glass

Sparkling clean wine glasses? Yes, please. They make me happy even when they’re empty!

Crystal Classical Candlesticks

White Taper Candles

Not going to quote any research here, but I can positively, absolutely guarantee that not only do I look better in candlelight, but so does anything that goes on the plates.

Copper Pepper Mill

The opulent glow, mechanism, and elegance of this table accessory just makes you feel rich. And while we categorically do NOT believe it’s true that “you can’t be too rich or too thin,” there is something psychologically elevating about surrounding oneself, especially at the table, with items that quietly speak the message, “You have enough. You don’t need ‘more.'”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Dad March 22, 2010 at 6:53 am

I’d like any of your recipes for “unique and delightful” chicken soups to go with the recipe you previously provided for homemade egg noodles – which I thought I’d try my hand at this week.


rickandkathy March 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Request accepted. Stay tuned for said recipe, which we’ll post as a blog entry this week in case anybody is interested.


Gayane Markosyan March 21, 2010 at 12:01 am

Of course it’s all about the content!!! As Susan wrote “the presence of a beautiful romantic lifestyle”.


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janette jones March 20, 2010 at 9:55 am

Oh, I couldn’t agree more…it’s food for the soul and the eyes and the heart not, just your stomach, that we need more of! And you could paint it!


rickandkathy March 21, 2010 at 10:31 am

Janette, that’s a great idea. However, as it is, we spend so much time before meals realizing how beautiful it looks and yelling “Quick! Get the camera!” that sometimes it’s cold by the time we actually start to eat. If Rick were to do a study on every one, we’d starve!


Gayane Markosyan March 20, 2010 at 9:41 am

Kathy, I love your post! I had a feeling that I wrote this:-)
Your philosophy of life is so close to mine!! Once I had wrote a story called “A Well-Dressed Life”. It is about how easy is to make your and your close people’s life beautiful and enjoyable. I would share it with you if it would be in English.


rickandkathy March 21, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hi Gayane,
Thanks for your comment. I would LOVE to read your story. Is there some way to translate it? Or just send it in Armenian and I’ll see if I can figure it out.


Susan Bruner March 19, 2010 at 3:12 pm

This is not just a beautifully romantic dinner table, this evokes the presence of a beautiful romantic lifestyle.Well done.


rickandkathy March 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Susan, thanks so much for your kind words. You are obviously a keen observer of human nature 🙂


Sue March 19, 2010 at 2:14 pm

hmmm, I think I recognize that red wine. 🙂


rickandkathy March 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Suzie, you are GOOD!!


kate March 18, 2010 at 1:56 pm

love it – what a rule to live by. makes me want to go out and invest in new linens and all sorts of accouterments. or at least keep an eye open for some good vintage thrifting this summer!


rickandkathy March 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Vintage thrifting is the BEST! That’s the real deal (sorry :)). But really, it so isn’t about stuff, but about intention. And intention coupled with a respect for the planet and previously appreciated moments makes it all even better.
love you, Kate.


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