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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Second Generation

Unlike my mother, I had the good fortune to attend DAR luncheons and ladies' teas from an early age. I was allowed to play in the kitchen. Judging from the above picture, I was interested in china and silver very early on! My mom let me pull out the good stuff and enjoy it! Antique shows featured prominently even in my childhood. I have so many collections I could not possibly list them all. Loving old things and having a passion for history, my mother eventually delved into genealogy, sharing with me her findings. While it was exciting to rediscover all of our ancestors who first came to the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries, I regret that the generations in the middle so carelessly lost family traditions and heirlooms. (There are some rather scandalous stories in our family about how things disappeared through the years, and while painful, they are quite entertaining!)

Emma visiting STT in 2008
I should also mention that attending boarding school at St. Timothy's School in Maryland played a reinforcing role in my love of tradition. Please note, my parents reluctantly sent me off at my own request, God bless them. While I have had a life full of amazing adventures all over the world, life at St. Timothy's has been the second most fantastic experience of my life. (Becoming a mother is still in first place.) The student experience there is rich with traditions and relationship-building aside from the stellar academics, arts, and athletics. Regardless of the commitment to daily activities, there was always a very definite pause to come together and dine as a family. In the dining hall, the ceilings were at least 20' tall, round tables where students and teachers sat together, and students had rotating duties of bringing the food out to serve. There we sat, hair thrown up haphazardly in uniforms that were often wrinkled, and dined. No lunch trays could be found. No plastic or melamine of any kind. Seating rotated throughout the year. Teachers, students, dorm parents, their children, random visitors, other staff all thrown together to break bread. International, multilingual, multiethnic. What a blessing that was to me, much more than I realized at the time. I am still in touch with every member of our senior class and with many, many more alumnae from fifty years ago until the present. When I go back to the school now as an on-again, off-again board member and random visitor, I love to attend lunch and sit with the girls and dine. (And there are more dining stories you'll hear later, such as the famous crêpes made by our headmaster and his wife at their house on campus when they would host us all for breakfast!)

The Palm Beach Story
In that most of our family heirlooms, (dishes and sterling included), disappeared in my grandmother's generation or even before, I began a very deliberate process of collecting things in high school to enjoy in adulthood and to pass down. (This includes collecting experiences, such as traveling.) Stephanie, my life-long best friend and former St. Tim's roommate, and I exchanged Holiday Lenox china in high school at birthdays and Christmas. Even as boarding school gals and poor college students, she in Massachusetts and I in Georgia, we each had a stash in our dorm rooms of china and crystal to use for Ramen Noodles and Diet Cokes. I remember visiting her at Boston College our junior year, having tea and scones, watching "The Palm Beach Story" among the typical clothing and textbook chaos.  We also scraped together all of our cash and had a late-night dessert at the Ritz. It was by far the most expensive and most tasty sorbet I had ever had until I moved to France later that year. (There is a little restaurant in Paris called the Procope, perhaps the oldest restaurant in Paris, that beat the Ritz in price and in taste.)

Churchill China Chelsea Blue Willow 45-Piece 
Dinnerware Set, Service for 8
Search for reed and barton flatware
No matter what your condition or mood, or how many fast food meals a lack of time necessitates, taking the time to truly dine is a small luxury that I refuse to do without. For my family and me, that can simply mean sitting at the kitchen table with our lovely Blue Willow china, Lady Anne crystal tumblers, and Reed and Barton stainless eating hamburgers, baked beans, and chips with a side of fruit. (I wash my Lady Anne crystal in the dishwasher. Clean-up is NOT labor intensive for every day.) There is always a familiar glass ramekin filled with fruit or yogurt or peanut butter for things such as apples or pretzels. Things match. There is an organization to the dining process. No paper plates. No disposable cups. We set the table together. We clear the dishes together. We talk. By honoring yourself and others by dining with a deliberately laid table and a careful menu, you are able to reconnect with others in a way that can't be duplicated. You are expressing how special they are to you, and when alone, how special you are to yourself.


  1. Andrea,
    Thanks for writing this blog. I was about to pack up all of my china and store it since we never use it. You just reitterated to me the importance of family meals. In our fast paced life, it is really important to sit down and enjoy each others company over meal time. I can't wait to read more from your blog. You were always so creative. I can remember you dancing at Leigh's Studio of Dance. I was just a few years younger than you, but you inspired me then. Glad Emma Cate is doing better. She has been in my prayers. Jennifer Weiland Elie

  2. Wonderful tribute to St Tims. We also dined at Hannah More Academy (the school taken over by St Tims). I learned to eat new foods while there even though my mother was an adventurous cook: example is shad roe which is only available when sea water warms up.

    My Mother also set a beautiful table. I do the same for company & holidays when children, grandchildren and other relatives visit.

    My husband & I belong to a dinner group, now down from 18 to 14 people. We meet in rotation at each other's houses about every 6 to 8 weeks. A theme of a different country is chosen one to several months in advance. All food has to be recipes from the chosen country or where the people in that country would export from.
    The host makes a beautiful table & cleans up. The rest of us roatate our turn for: bread & salad, main dish, beer & wine, appetizers or dessert. Some great meals have included Somalia, Denmark, and Brazil. This group has been in existence since the 1930's.

  3. Oh Andrea what a beautiful blog! I have not yet conquered the skill of cooking, but I do keep my formal dining table always set. It brings me such joy! I was saddened by a recent visit to a home builder who said they no longer include formal dining rooms in their floor plans. But maybe that's ok -- a fine dining experience can take place anywhere in your home!


    p.s. Would love to see some of your recipes here!

  4. @Jennifer, you are too sweet! I am the kind of mom who will go by Zaxby's on the way home, but come home and pull out the china to eat it on! I am so glad you aren't going to put away your china! @Elizabeth, what a neat tradition! I have many friends who have time to do dinner clubs. (I really wish I did!) But I don't know any who have a tradition dating back more than 80 years! I see a book in the making! @Shannon, floor plans have scrimped on dining rooms for years. My tiny little house has a 12 x 12 dining room. I can't even put all of the leaves in my table, but at least I can seat 8. But like you said, there's always the back porch, and buffets where guests can meander into other rooms, and my dining table can sit as many as 6, and there is floor space here and there for more if need be! :) Thank you all for posting! I can't wait to see your posts and recipes here! I hope you will add your own pics and stories as soon as I figure out how to imbed Mr. Linky! (Seriously, that's the name of the site!)


  5. Andrea, thanks for the links. You should post some of your tablescape pictures on It's a decor website and they have a dining room section. You can find my pics on that website under my username 241imdun. And you're right about the size of dining rooms. I slant my table at an angle to make it fit, but I like it that way.

  6. I have tried the slanting dining table thing, but I have two china cabinets and too many windows and doors in the room. I can still get 8 at the table, but it's tight! :)


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