At Gampa’s Table

I had Easter dinner this afternoon with a cousin who took his first steps around this  table of long ago.  He is now in his early 60s, I am just 70.  The warm tones of the old color photo let you know at once this must be the 1950s.

Belle Porter, Gampa’s English downstairs “lady” [you could never call them maids – they were the ladies] would serve the food with her pince-nez balancing delicately on her nose and making corrections to my childish actions in low, kindly tones.  Meat was on a silver parsley-ringed platter; green vegetables looked stunning in a silver bowl, and the mashed potatoes were peaked to perfection.  I now know that the only beef served there was aged and what a treat.  Lamb was not served with mint jelly.  No it was served with home made mint sauce and it was warm and sweet.

Grandmother had died the year I was born so my father sat at the head of the table opposite Gampa.  He was weak on one side due to a brain tumor so his foot lay heavily at times on the “buzzer”‘  beneath the carpet Grandmother used to touch to ring Belle for the next course.  Poor Belle, she popped in and out like a cuckoo when Dad hit that buzzer multiple times by mistake.

There were nothing but arm chairs at Gampa’s table.  He felt it was not very democratic for a host and hostess to have the only comfortable chairs with arms. He therefore  had an antique chair he favored copied eleven times by an old Rochester firm named Hayden hat specialized in reproductions.

A word about the silver loving cup in the center of the table. Gampa hated people who went as guests to peoples’ homes and commented on the contents therein.   One poor guest asked what the silver thing was in the middle of the table.  Gampa looked at him and said slowly and calmly: “my father’s ashes; like them near me when I eat.”

My brothers and another male cousin are all living out-of-town with large and growing families of their own but cousin Curtice and I hold down the fort here in Rochester.  We no longer have dinners at one of our homes but at the retirement home where he lives.  It is lovely and we have our even lovelier, warm memories.  We are blessed to have one another and to have learned about the lasting value of family and not “things” at Gampa’ s table.

The King’s Grand Service – The British Royal Banquet Table Since George IV

Although there is one post here on royal banquets, many have reached this site searching for information on the silver flatware used during a royal banquet.  Not all research has been completed but enough has been unearthed that a few salient facts are available.

As you can see by the following excerpt, more than just flatware comprises the Royal Grand Service:

The magnificent dining silver-gilt used at a State Banquet is from the Grand Service, originally made for George IV when Prince of Wales. It was first used to celebrate the 73rd birthday of his father, George III, in 1811.  As king, George IV continued to add to the service throughout his life, and by his death it included more than 4,000 pieces. Today the Grand Service forms the core of the royal silver and encompasses the best examples of 19th-century design, drawing on Egyptian, Greek, Roman and medieval sources.  The dining plate is dominated by the monumental Mercury and Bacchus and Apples of the Hesperides candelabra, which stand over a metre tall.  Made by the master goldsmith Paul Storr and designed by the sculptor  John  Flaxman,  they  are  always  placed  on  the  table  opposite Her Majesty The Queen and the visiting Head of State. [royalcollection.org]

It is meant to overwhelm.  Looking at the flatware, it is given over to what is called fiddle, thread and shell patterns.  It is best illustrated if we look at the silver flatware “Kings Pattern” that Tiffany produced around the turn of the century and that was wildly popular.  It incorporates many of the decorative details of the above flatware and follows the development of these patterns through the Edwardian Era.  Replicas were found in every hotel in America.

As time permits, more research will be done on this.  Meanwhile, it is hoped that many of your questions have been answered here.  If not, leave your question in a comment.

At Great Grandmother’s Table in Ormond Beach, FL ca 1920

My Great Grandfather had a home on the Halifax River in Ormond Beach, Florida where he lived winters.  He was a Scottish merchant and other Scottish merchants had homes near him.  They called themselves “the Scottish Syndicate.”  The home was called Rowallan after a castle in his native Ayrshire.

Above is my Great Grandmother’s table at Rowallan (ca 1915). The centerpiece appears to be flowers and fruits.  These round tables are making a comeback now but with one difference: they are constructed so that you can add leaves around the outside to expand them if you wish.  Otherwise, they might be ungainly in today’s interiors.

There was a small orange grove on the property.  When the house was sold, the appraiser, in trying to devalue the place for tax purposes said: “it must have cost one dollar per orange to produce fruit in that grove.”  In other words, it wasn’t set up for economies of scale!

You could eat fruit al fresco in the grove as my cousins did here:

Or you could eat it at table using a citrus spoon with enameled orange blossoms.  This is a spoon actually used at Roallan.  It was the gift of a cousin in the family pictured above.  She was the youngest and is not pictured.

We know for certain that wild turkey was on the menu at the house.  Here is a picture of my young father (ca 1925) with one that had just been shot.  We must remember that Florida in those days was not developed to the extent it is today and so wild turkeys were not far away.

We are fortuate to have these pictures and some artifacts from those days almost a century ago.   There were seven children in the family and so a spoon is a treasure!

©SamHenry.  Registraton pending.

Unhappy Holiday Dinners at “the Children’s Table”

Proof there were children's' tables at many homes in the 1950s and '60s. This is from the internet.

We used to have big old-fashioned family gatherings at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas at Grandma’s house.  Helping Grandma and Grandpa,  it was as if everyone were in a flotilla. Deep in conversation, we all floated in family formation from the kitchen to the dining room and back again to set the table and to help make sure everything was ready.

Ah but then something came out that ended the togetherness: a smaller table. We little cousins knew what THAT was: the children’s table – our table.  Face it, we loved playing together but we did not want to eat together.  We wanted to be with the adults.  The adult’s table was only a matter of feet from us but it seemed as if we were on an island off the coast.

After dinner, the adults would sit around the table for hours talking in the residual glow of another good meal at Grandma’s.  We children carried plates to the kitchen as they talked.  I hurried through this so that I could stand by my parents at their table and listen to the stories.  There was a living room filled with comfortable furniture but that table was the center of the universe at holiday time.  To move to another room would have broken some kind of spell.

The sad fact about a table for children and another for adults is that it gets the children thinking about what it would take for them to get to the big table.  If there were room enough for everyone, we would all have been together.  So  you think and you imagine a way and then it  hits you:  death.  Someone at that table would have to die before you could have a place.  Oh my God did you felt guilty for having such a thought as if the thought itself were a murder weapon.  Kids are ripe for tragedy.  They despair of a way out.  It’s the drama of childhood!

When we all became adults with little people of our own, the reasonable solution finally arrived:  dinner out.   It was never as cozy or warm or as good as holiday dinner at Grandma’s house but then in this milieu,  I usually got to sit next to Grandma herself.  That was worth the wait.  That’s one of the wonderful moments when you realize it isn’t about a place – it’s about the people in it.  Grandma’s table can be anywhere as long as Grandma is sitting at it with us.

©SamHenry – atgrandmastable.wordpress.com.  Registration Pending.

Grandpa’s Table: Breakfast At Our Adirondack “Camp” from SamHenry

My maternal great grandfather started going to this little gem of a Lake in the foothills of the Adirondacks before I was born.  His son, my grandfater, owned his first cottage in a fairly well-populated bay but found a heavenly parcel with three lots and government property ringing most of it.

The house dated from the turn of the last century and was buried in trees with tall grass.  Not much mowing and all natural.

My favorite view of the property - from the old flat-bottomed fishing boat.

Inside was plain, not winterized, with tongue and groove unpainted walls.  The furniture was about the same date as the house; the kitchen dishes were depression-era glass and cheap reproduction willow ware and deep blue glasses.  In short, these camps were filled with anything you didn’t want at your main house anymore.

Grandpa with an iron frying pan full of sunny side up fried eggs cooked in bacon grease.

I began my trips there my first year on the planet and they continued until the camp (cottage for non-Adirondack vacation homes) was sold following my grandfather’s death.  In later years, my grandfather, a doctor, was the chief cook.  He and my uncle cooked wonderful breakfasts.  There was no dishwasher, a refrigerator only instituted in the place after 1970 and just the most basic iron cookware.  Water piped in from a well and turned off and on using faucets replaced the pump on the counter next to the sink around the same time.

All dining table and cooking equipment was kept in tall metal cabinets that shut tight to protect them from the mice and bugs.  Shelves were lined with oil cloth and, unlike today, seemed effortlessly spaced for successful storage.

I loved going fishing with Grandpa – often for the entire day.  He made up some Grandma Brown’s Baked Bean sandwiches (canned beans made in Mexico, NY) and brought some pop and other unrefrigerated snacks for lunch.  This was before ice packs and coolers.  He was not good about minding my mother’s rules about candy.  He would give me a few pieces and say “now I want you to take one of these once every ten minutes and see if you don’t feel better.”  When she would complain, he would turn to her and say: “I don’t get cavities from eating candy.  I keep my teeth in a glass nights and they are fine.”  He was a tease and a character.

Grandma and Grandpa on their way to the camp next door that was owned by his roommate at medical school. That family still owns their camp. This is one of my all time favorite pictures albeit from an early Kodak Instamatic.

William And Harry’s Grandma’s Table(s)

Harry and William ride away from a child educationcenter in Lesotho, Africa 2010

No matter that you travel economy class in the air or by horse on the ground, Princes William and Harry of Great Britain cannot easily claim a casual lifestyle for their Grandma, Queen Elizabeth.

Recently, the Emir of  Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned came for a three-day visit in the UK.  Qatar was a British protectorate until 1971 and Britain seeks closer ties with the kingdom in an attempt to woo new investors in the UK.  Queen Elizabeth pulled out all of the entertainment stops at Windsor Castle.  In the large hall that has been restored since a fire there, she served what seemed hundreds.

The Queen delivers a speech before the banquet

In 2008, the Queen opened up more of Buckingham palace to tourists and a special exhibit was devised focusing on banquets:

Buckingham Palace has been open to the public since 1993.

The ballroom is where the great state banquets are held – there have been 77 held there during the Queen’s reign and 97 in total (of the other 20, 18 were held at Windsor Castle in Berkshire and 2 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh) – and [since 2009, the public have been] able to see the room as it is when it is laid for for such an occasion.

The popular monarch loves helping to set up the huge table’s layout – and she also helped to set up this display for the public.

This is the scene which has greeted foreign monarchs, presidents and prime ministers – the Buckingham Palace ballroom prepared for a state banquet.

Laid out are seats for 170, more than 2,000 pieces of polished silver-gilt cutlery, 1,104 glasses, 23 flower arrangements and 100 candles in candelabras.

The Palace’s ballroom has been decorated and the enormous dining table laid out with hundreds of pieces of tableware. [Daily Mail]

Behind the scenes preparations for a state banquet featuring staff walking on the table to light candles and make last minute adjustments.

An overview of the collection of flatware and etc. that are used at a banquet at Buckingham Palace where most have been held until recently when Prince Philip suggested Windsor.  This was shot during an exhibition at the Palace in 2008 that was open to the public:

St. Georges Hall, Windsor. Destroyed During a Fire in recent time, it is amazing that furnishings and paintings were not in place since the fire was the result of faulty wiring during remodeling. St. George is the patron saint of England.

Finally, enjoy reading about the most decadent royal banquet ever.  [Daily Mail]