The day had been a gloomy one. It was time to set a table in preparation for your visit, but where? There would be no light-filled images in a bright solarium. The dining room didn’t “feel” quite right for the items I’d selected. Then I thought of the old library table in the Lower Level (that sounds much nicer than walk-out basement, doesn’t it?). I gathered an assortment of chairs from around the house to provide (very mis-matched) seating.
The stemware and part of the centerpiece had come from an estate sale, held the previous day at the home (farmhouse) of a former US Congressman (from 1969-1989). Thank you to a reader who wrote and told me about the sale! It was the second day, and items were reduced by 25%.
Do you ever see things in stores or at estate/garage sales that remind you of dishes you have at home? Does the word “tablescape” flash through your mind instantly? That’s what happened when I saw a pair of decorative birdcages. One of the estate sale workers asked me where I found them (on a table upstairs), and another employee spoke up and said “She had them in her downstairs bathroom for years and years.” A man standing nearby said they were hand-made Tunisian birdcages. The Congressman and his wife had traveled extensively in North Africa, so it’s possible they’d brought them back as souvenirs. I paid $9 for the pair.
I decided to set the table in a simple manner for you today. Yes, I really did. I showed great restraint. ONE glass per customer (somehow our guests usually end up bringing their "welcome" wine to the table, and things get cluttered). I did once have a dinner guest laugh out loud at my idea of serving "a simple meal." Well, yes, there were fresh flowers ... and candles ... and cloth napkins. But I used stainless flatware and dishes that can go in the dishwasher. Well, enough of that ... on with the show ...
The shape of the birdcages caused me to think of a poem I read years ago. The first line kept running through my head. Here is:
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s
OR, A VISION IN A DREAM.A FRAGMENT.
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty mountain momentarily was forced :
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Floated midway on the waves ;
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
Singing of Mount Abora.
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Coleridge claimed that the poem was inspired by an opium-induced dream. It must have been a magical dream indeed.
Dried oak leaf hydrangeas from the garden. Brass plated candelabrum, Goodwill.
Lead crystal stemware: "Heritage" by Fostoria (1979-1882). Production of Fostoria glassware ceased in 1983.
China: "Sherwood" by Syracuse (1949-1967). Thrift store purchase, $5 for all.
Silverplated flatware: "Queen Bess" by Oneida Community (1946). This pattern was offered as a Betty Crocker premium through collecting coupons from boxes of selected General Mills products. An excerpt from one of their many ads stated: "Lovely Queen Bess Pattern. Extra heavy silverplate; principal forks and spoons reinforced with additional layer of pure silver. Dramatic new Queen Bess design inspired by the Garden Rose of China."
Syracuse China, located in Lyncourt, New York (a suburb of Syracuse), was founded in 1871 as Onondaga Pottery Company (O.P. Co.) in the town of Geddes. The company initially produced earthenware. In the late 19th century, O.P.Co., began producing fine china, for which it found a strong market particularly in hotels, restaurants, and railroad dining cars. The company closed in 2009. Syracuse dishes will now be produced in China.
The "Turner-Over Club"
Syracuse China sponsored the Turner-Over Club (later the Turn-Over Club) as a promotion for decades. The company gave out membership cards, with the idea that wherever members traveled, they would "turn over" their dinnerware to see if it was Syracuse China; witnesses to this curious behavior would then be treated to the story of the club and thus introduced to the brand name.
Hope you enjoyed! I'll be traveling next week, so this will be my last tablescape for a while. I'll do my best to stop by and see your tables while I'm gone.