The place where we sit down together to have a meal is an important part of our daily life, our culture and our homes. The particular behaviour and etiquette during a meal, the decoration of the table as well as the actual preparation of the meal or even the writing of dinner invitations have been - and are - subject to numerous books and articles. There is a whole culture concerning this particular piece of furniture and the time there: table culture.
Table Culture - a Meal as a social Function
A meal can be much more than the simple intake of food: a quite sociable act and, beyond that, a way of celebrating a special occasion, for example a birthday or a wedding. A dinner invitation (be it for a meeting in a restaurant or at home) is traditionally a common method of socialising - practised not only in the personal arena but also in business. The exchange of a conference table with a lunch table (mainly in restaurants) often provides a break for all meeting participants, can signal the end of a particular business session or be a welcome icebreaker to loosen up the atmosphere.
There are of course many other reasons to have a casual meal and get-together with family and friends - beyond anniversaries, social and/or business obligations. But whatever the particular reason may be: It is the culinary as well as the social aspect that defines our table culture. The food as such, its taste and quality are of course an essential part of such occasions.
Table Culture - Enjoyment for all Senses
Ideally, a meal is a feast for all the senses. Beside the obviously participating senses of taste and smell, it is also the sight that adds to the enjoyment of a meal. Therefore, the arrangement of the food and the decoration of the table are of importance for the right impression, including the choice of flatware, cutlery, napkins and other accessories. The decoration style depends on the occasion: A classic white or pastel coloured table cloth is still a safe choice for a more formal and festive kind of event - but if the occasion is of a more casual and informal nature, there are various alternatives for the traditional table cloth, and of course the colours can vary as well, as long as all the chosen colours harmonise with each other. The same goes for the colours of the flowers, which are a favoured option for table decoration, but should not smell too obtrusive in order to not interfere with the scent of the served food.
Some light music can as well be added to support the atmosphere. It should not be played to loudly, though, to fit the purpose of providing a pleasant background for the table conversation.