18 August 2014

Dining Areas

"Where shall we sit tonight?" is not usually among the questions a couple or a family put to each other when they’re eating at home. Much more likely they ask, "What shall we have for dinner?" or "White or red?" or "Stay in or go out?" As for where you sit, well, what are the usual choices? The kitchen table is fine for informal meals. For a holiday, or company dinner, you move to the dining room. And for those summer barbecues, a backyard picnic table is the answer. At least this was my experience growing up in suburban America.

The first apartment I rented after college was an Upper East Side L-shaped studio. Best, if not only, solution to the dining table problem in that small space was the drop leaf table shown in this picture.

From there I graduated to a larger space in Hoboken, NJ, where I had my drop leaf table in the kitchen. Here, at least, I had room to open the table up for five or six people, something I was never able to do in the studio!

And when I moved to a Hoboken condo, the table came with me, and took its place in the living room’s so-called "dining area."

After I met and married Mark, I knew it was time to ditch the drop leaf and do something worthy of a Manhattan loft. We decided to set the dining space up as in a restaurant, with three tables, six chairs and a set of genuine restaurant tablecloths. And, even when we had dinner guests, we kept the tables apart, just as in a restaurant. Some people thought we were nutty, but I think most people got it.

You might have noticed that in each of my last four apartments, unlike the suburban house I grew up in, there was one place, and one place only, to eat one’s meals. Búzios has been different and disorienting. Here we’ve wound up with five — count them, five — distinct places to eat our meals. So, "Where shall we sit tonight?" is a real question, and a compelling one.

This "formal" dining room table was where Mark and I ate most of our meals when we first came here. Took us a while to understand that in Búzios you eat outdoors whenever possible. You eat inside only if it’s too chilly, too rainy, or too windy to eat outside.

So now we always, always gravitate to the veranda table, particularly if we have guests. Day or night, it’s the most pleasant place to dine.

But if it’s just the two of us, or only one or two people are coming in the late afternoon, we move down to the terrace. Not in the summer, mind you, when it’s too hot. But this is the right choice in our so-called winter, when there’s enough sun to keep us warm in the winter breeze.

Let’s see — maybe it’s late, or the weather isn’t cooperating. Mark and I (with room for one or two more) park ourselves at what we call "the Hugo table," a table we inherited from a friend who now sits at that grand dining table in the sky.

And for very informal meals, or an occasional breakfast, we like to sit at what we call "the breakfast bar," with room for up to three (plus one standee).

And if Mark and I manage to put a table and chairs down in our quintal (July 28, 2014 post), my goodness, then we’ll have six distinct dining areas. I feel like the Queen of England.

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