These days, I pretend I have the freedom to invite people over so I spend the afternoon in the kitchen cooking something elaborate, reorganising my pantry, or sorting through silverware and table linens. At the end of the day, I suppose it’s not in vain because I get a clean house, organised kitchen, and delicious meal out of it. But I am never rewarded with guests.
Despite my town’s decision to re-open many restaurants for indoor and outdoor seating (the very thought of which makes me wonder if I have sandpaper in the back of my throat, need to cough, or am getting a hot forehead) I have chosen to remain chez moi. Now, more than even, I’m motivated to make dinner at home (for the 120th night in a row) feel special: cloth napkins, lit candle, cool China that belonged to my father-in-law in the 70’s, blooms from our garden.
My friend @milosattic (luckily, we’re in the same quarantine pod) has turned her hobby of collecting all things mid-century into a charitable side hustle – donating 50% of her proceeds to array of rotating charities. In fact, almost all the tableware, linens, etc. in these photos are available for purchase. Her wares are affordable, tasteful, and an easy and cost-effective way to dress up a table – whether it’s for you and you alone, or the family/group you’re isolating with.
And so, because we’re all dreaming of a day when touching each other and eating in close proximity isn’t anxiety inducing – we staged a Midsommar dinner complete with second hand table settings to give you something to aspire to.
Here are a few basic suggestions to make any meal feel intentional (with or without guests) with little-no extra cost or work.
Cloth or linen napkins at the table: There is no extra effort involved in laying out cloth napkins vice paper napkins. They scale up the table, are better for the environment, and will make you (or guests) feel special. I’ve been able to find all my napkins at thrift stores. If you buy them in cream or white, you can bleach them and be done with it.
Glass bottles/carafes for water: If you buy glass bottles of water, you can soak them to peel off the label, which always looks better on your table. I keep glass carafes on hand (I got mine at IKEA), and fill and chill them before dinner.
Blooms or greenery in vases: Be resourceful – I like to have blooms or branches on the table at dinner but I don’t buy them. I always clip whatever is in our yard. If I’m lucky it’s a gardenia from our bush, but a branch with bright green leaves from one of our trees also does the trick.
Buy second hand: My favorite dinner ware, table settings, etc. have either been purchased whilst traveling, or found second hand. Once you’ve developed your own style, it’s really easy to know what to look for. For example, I’m into blue and white dishes. I have them from Morocco, Denmark, England, and Japan. They all have different designs but they go well together because of the colour scheme. I love Royal Copenhagen and Arabia – so every time I’m in a thrift store, you’ll find me flipping over stacks of dishes. And sometimes it pays off!
Don’t overcomplicate the menu: Sometimes I fail miserably at this. I get so excited about making a million things for everyone to try that I’m exhausted by the time they come over. Not what we need. Instead, pick something you can make the day before, or something you can have your friends help you assemble. The menu we did for Midsommar was incredibly simple. Many of the dishes used the same ingredients i.e. dill for the salmon and the feta, sumac for the tart and the citrus salad. Go easy on yourself. More recipes forthcoming!