A narrow dining table

It's maybe all it takes for humankind to get along better.

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Laura Roosevelt and Charlie Silberstein with guests at their table. —Gabrielle Mannino

Our kitchen table is the hub of our family and social life. It’s where we eat family meals and dinners with guests, where we play after-dinner family games of Rummikub, where the kids did their homework, and where they and their packs of friends always congregate, where I sit when conquering the New York Times Sunday crossword. With any family that loves to cook, the kitchen is where the action is, hence where everyone generally wants to be, so having a great kitchen table matters.

Our kitchen is a wide, long, open room, with counters on both sides. Though it’s spacious, we needed a long eating table narrow enough to be placed in the center of the room and still allow easy passage around it. We found it at a place called In Home Furnishing in Boston’s Back Bay, which sadly no longer exists. Over 200 years old, the table is made of two planks of wood on four legs. It is rustically marked by wormholes, a burn scar from a toppled candle, and a number of scratches, old and new. It’s almost 7½ feet long, and just over 2 feet wide. Three wooden chairs fit easily on each side; four a side works if we get cozy, allowing for 10-person dinners with no problem.

Sometimes I envy friends with circular dining tables, because they tend to promote interesting all-table conversations. Because our table is long, when it’s packed, there are often two or more conversations going on, but they’re always good ones. And if the whole table does take up a topic, the narrowness of the table helps us stay cohesive as a group.
When we chose this narrow table for space reasons, we had no idea how much it would promote intimacy. But it does. Footsie? Here, you can go for calves-ie. And if holding hands across the table doesn’t suffice, you can have a quick smooch just by leaning forward, because people across from one another are only two feet apart. Bringing people close together physically turns out to bring them close together psychically as well. There’s no need to lean in for a shared confidence or good laugh — you’re already there. Being so physically close to one’s dinner partners makes you want to know them as closely, which means that people tend to ask soulful questions at this table, and get soulful responses. Dinner at this shallow table deepens friendships.

 

Laura D. Roosevelt is a writer, photographer, and poet. She lives in West Tisbury.