The kitchen table

14 August 2013
We had lunch with Kerry, Sunny and Jamie yesterday. It's such a gentle pleasure to sit around a table and share food with loved ones. The sun was shining outside on a warm end of winter day and we had clinking ice cubes in our lemon cordial glasses. A sign of things to come when summer really hits.

I cooked roast pork with baked potatoes, pumpkin, baby parsnips, red cabbage and peas, and followed that with fresh fruit salad and ice cream. Food is always more than food. It's a way of bringing the family together, a reconnection that shows us all that everything is going well, or an early warning that it isn't. You can often get the words that say that over the phone but it's usually the face-to-face meetings that show it unreservedly, and they are made better over a meal, or at least a cup of tea. Yesterday, the conversation was easy, we all enjoyed the shared food and while the warm breeze drifted through the kitchen, Jamie was learning that this is how his family is.

The kitchen table is a powerful symbol of family life. Over the years in my family, we've sat at tables just like mine and talked about dying grandmas, visiting aunties and uncles and the thousand other things that made up our lives then.  I remember my grandma's table, shiny and waxed, holding gem scones, pikelets, corned beef sandwiches and tea. I remember my mother's table - yellow laminex surface with chrome edging, laden with cold drinks, beers and strange cocktail mixes, with chips and fruit cake at Christmas time, when the neighbours visited. We sat together at our kitchen table with a meal at the end of every day, and then, at various times during the year, it would become the centre of joyous hospitality or quiet with tea when sadder times came calling. 

I discovered a lot about my family, and life in general, sitting and listening at the kitchen table. Way back then I don't recall feeling frightened or alarmed at any of the adults talking quietly in the kitchen, nor during the happy and more boisterous occasions. It showed me that adults were vulnerable too and how comfort was sought and given during those times. It showed me the beginnings of hospitality. So in addition to being a focal point in our day-to-day lives where we shared our meals, this humble piece of furniture also became a sewing centre, ironing board, homework desk, games table, it held baby baths, folded washing and a hundred other things. And then during those special times, everyone knew the kitchen table was the place to be during a celebration or when we had to say a sad goodbye.

What happens at your kitchen table?