Dining at Home

A beautiful & clean table for an at-home dinner party, featured on Style Me Pretty styled by purveyor of good taste, Molly McGlone

I've been doing a lot of thinking about family dinners lately.  Right now Peter and I are lucky to eat, much less sit down to a meal with cloth napkins.  But there are actually guidelines for family dinners that should be followed and were followed in my parents' and grandparents' households that I only recently realized have their roots in etiquette.  Family dinners are considered the training ground for little ones to learn how to eat appropriately and to obey their parents and also to help develop an intentional family culture, one that will inform the happy ways the family will interact and also how obstacles will be overcome in the future.  The only way to use family dinners as teaching grounds for the little babes (and for ourselves!) is repetition, which means that it is wise to set a daily dinner time from which absences must be pre-cleared.  (I hear you.  In this day and age, sneaking out of work to dine with family rather than at a desk is difficult.  A different issue that no doubt requires a great deal of either creativity or commitment.)  The dinner table should be set by any children of capable age, and the settings should include proper utensils (not plastic), glasses (not bottles) and cloth napkins.  Opt for cotton or a cotton blend rather than linen to avoid ironing.  Try these, these or these.  Keep three sets of four on hand and you should always have a clean option to reach for.  Please note: no self-respecting table should be set with any food items.  I would make exceptions for things like a pretty jar of marmalade or a fancy jar of mustard, but a plastic ketchup bottle would be abysmal.  Even take-out should be emptied and served on plates.  As for the ambience, I hope it goes without saying that the television should be off, cellphones should be kept somewhere other than at the table and the answering machine should pick up any unfortunately timed calls made to the homephone.  Put those devices to better use and try out the Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong radio station on Spotify.  Finally, at the end of a meal, any children at the table should ask permission of their mother (or the eldest female blood relation at the table) to be excused.

It is not a rule of etiquette that all children under highschool age should have to drink milk with dinner.  That I still blame my mother for.