“The decoration of the table must be very careful by the housewife, since when it is correct it contributes in a very important way to making a meal pleasant, since the beauty of the objects and the harmony of their colors, enhanced by some Wisely arranged flowers create a warm, welcoming atmosphere that will guarantee the success of the meeting ”, the paragraph is by Manuel Martínez Llopis about the table decoration in the book The Art of the Table , published by Alianza Editorial in 1990.
Although it squeaks us that it is the housewife and not the master, cousin, daughter or son-in-law who sets the table, everything else is true: a well-laid, beautiful and well-organized table makes eating go from being an act of staple to a complete experience that we enjoy with all the senses.
Nor is it necessary to make a Bethlehem portal with a San José made of ham, the cecina burrito and the hair of the baby Jesus made of spun egg -unless you want to participate in our Viejuna Christmas contest- , or take out the silver dishes or put colored lights even on the radiator. We are talking about a Christmas table, not the final of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Barbarella edition.
But this year we will be grateful that Christmas is similar, even a little, to those of other years.
We will cook something more elaborate, we will open a wine, we will have dinner or we will eat more slowly than a daily day, and we will try to make the table celebrate – without reaching the level of Martha Stewart , we need a place for food -, with economic, natural elements and even edibles to be able to dispose of them easily or transform them into a recipe.
These are some very easy, cheap proposals that do not take up space later, because you disassemble them, they end up in a smoothie, they are left in vases, they are eaten or they have another use:
Succulents, walnuts and raspberries
In a bowl or salad bowl – I have chosen a retro fruit bowl that I had at home – you put a candle in the center and fill the entire space with whole nuts.
Then you have around some succulents, the ones you find, there are many varieties, and you put some raspberries at random to give it color (be careful; if you go over there it may look like the village of The Smurfs).
To give it more volume, I have put an apple – choose a fuji or royal, which are red, and it is a very Christmas color – and a lime. The only most delicate component of this center are the raspberries: if you don’t have them, you can substitute them for some cherry tomatoes or, even more durable, some cayenne.
Raspberries and peppermint
You can make small centers that give more presence to the center that we talked about before, or put them alone along the entire table: I have assembled some in the Japanese containers for soy (mini point for sushi).
Put a small candle in the center, around it place mint leaves and surround the candle with raspberries. You can put some spearmint sprouts at one end to add volume to a part in the center.
When the last guests leave, you take the contents of these bowls, put them in a wide glass with a tablespoon of brown sugar and another of lime juice and crush them well. Fill with crushed ice, top with vodka or white rum and in 15 minutes you will have forgotten your brother-in-law’s turras.
Rosemary, lemons, ivy and succulents
In a deep plate, salad bowl or fruit bowl, put a candle in the center and some ivy branches making a crown inside. Fill the large gaps with lemons and add succulents and other leaves that you find in another color.
I have put some red ones that come out among the ivy that I have close to home, but you can put dry leaves from the street (washing them well before putting them in the center).
As I mounted it in a transparent fruit bowl, so that the crossed and chaotic branches were not seen, before mounting it, I filled it halfway with water and put a sliced lemon to decorate.
If you want to make it more attractive, put a dry branch to give it more movement, or fill it with walnuts, hazelnuts or chestnuts. Remember that less is more: the difference between a beautiful centerpiece and a Christmas horror vacui can be marked by three branches of mistletoe and two candy canes.
Ivy, persimmons, radishes, kiwis, radishes, pomegranates and hazelnuts
Mónica A. de la Vega and Silvia Jiménez, Home Economist and gastronomy teachers, propose to set up an elongated centerpiece. First, they say that it is important to choose a color range of two or three maximum colors (otherwise, you run the risk of ending up making a replica of Puppy, the Guggenheim dog ).
In this case, they have opted for green and red / orange. After choosing the colors, we arrange the long branches.
“We have chosen ivy, which we can easily find in any garden or terrace, but it is substitutable for any type of green branch, or even a bunch of turnip greens that are also seasonal. At the extremes, berries are also easily accessible in any garden at this time, ”says Mónica.
We place the candles as a central element and to one side and the other we will mount the center. “We have used persimmon, pomegranates, kiwis and radishes (with their stem).
We have cut the kiwis and pomegranates to take advantage of their visual juiciness and color, and we have arranged them on one side and the other, with more or less the same load, keeping balance but not total symmetry ”, explains De la Vega.
Afterwards, we spread some hazelnuts in a group with their shell outside the center itself. And, finally, to fill in the gaps that have been left, we put some Christmas garland that we have at home.
They have used wood so that it does not clash with the branches or the feeling of a natural center. The next day you can turn the fruit into a fruit salad – sprinkle it with some tangerine peel and its juice – and pickle the radishes for a healthy snack .
Jam jars and olive branches
The floral designer Sally Hambleton (Gabriel Lobo, 10. Madrid) loves to set up beautiful tables and show them to us on her Instagram account . I asked her to do something for a picnic, in case someone this rare year wanted to get together with their loved ones outdoors.
We can also take advantage of the idea and have an indoor picnic: if you are one of those who set up a “children’s table”, surely they find it very fun to do it in the living room at home.
She made the complete pack and set up a very simple picnic, with recyclable plates, glasses and cutlery. To decorate it, a very practical idea: some jars of jam, candles and olive twigs, which is now the olive harvest season and with a little luck you can have a center with its olives.
“I have put olive branches because it is the tree that I have in the door of my study and I only needed a few branches for the vases,” says Hambleton. But if you don’t have an olive tree, don’t be literal, take what is close to you.
And if what you have near is someone, ask permission, they will surely say yes because, as Sally says, “some twigs do not harm any tree!” The assembly is very easy: you decorate the jars with a ribbon, she has chosen the garnet tones, and you put some olive branches in some jars and in others you put a candle: it is rustic, beautiful and it is prepared in a pleat.
Hazelnuts, candles and lavender
In the typical wide and not too high vases, the gastronomic stylist and photographer Beatriz Rodríguez , proposes to put a handful of hazelnuts and hold a candle with them. “It seems cute to me to put a few vases of different sizes, depending on the table you have, to give some atmosphere.
We can always surround that candle with some natural element that we take during a walk. I like lavender because there is it all year round, it is not difficult to find and it has color ”.
And smell, we will have a center, in addition to being beautiful, aromatic: remember that if it is in a protected area such as a natural park, it cannot be taken: in that case buy a flowerpot or a bouquet and voila; It will cost you some euro but you will not endanger the ecosystem.
Magnolia and mandarin leaves
Magnolia leaves are relatively easy to find in cities and are very showy. Rodríguez proposes to arrange them along the table – it takes up less space than the round ornament – and alternate them with tangerines. The smaller the tangerines the better, so it is more elegant; having leaves is a highly recommended extra.
Grapes, blueberries and jasmine
Beatriz Rodríguez has been photographing tables for two years, you can follow her work at #unamesaunmes . Here we find a very simple centerpiece that will come in handy at New Year’s Eve dinner: some bunches of grapes placed along the table, with some blueberries that give it a chromatic contrast point and some jasmine flowers to decorate.
If we don’t find jasmine, we can put some other wild flower that we pick up on a walk or have on the balcony: the money plant, the azaleas, the poligalas and the chrysanthemums are in full bloom this month. And after dinner, each one eats twelve grapes from the same center to welcome 2021.
Crown of sausages and cheese
A more elaborate option, but very practical because it also solves the appetizer, is that the starter plate itself is the center of the table. You put it at the beginning, you eat it and you leave room for the following dishes.
One of the ideas that I liked the most is the one shared by the Thatcheeseplate Instagram account : ham, two types of cheese -a manchego and a brie could be a good option- and salami or embuchado loin.
To give it a little color, we put some sprigs of rosemary, some raisins, grains of pomegranate and grapes (she puts cranberries, but grapes are surely easier to find). Be careful not to put inedible decorations on the plate: someone can be scared.