The ritual of preparing Sabbath lunch, for me, begins with setting the table. That was my childhood task. It kept me busy and involved—but out of the small kitchen where my mother, grandmother and older sister were tripping over each other as they cooked. To this day, it is my favorite part of putting a special meal together.
Walking in the yard with a pair of clippers to see what blooming plant might be turned into a centerpiece can be a first step. Artistic paper napkins that add color and design to the table can also be inspirational. Often, I rely on a theme to help me choose menu items and decorations. Summer visitors from another part of the country could be the reason to get out the tablecloth with the map of the United States on it, and to highlight the tomatoes and sunflowers that are ubiquitous to the Sacramento area where I live.
Whatever the theme, setting a creative table makes me feel like I am doing my Adventist best. After all, Section One of “The Adventist Home,” by Ellen G. White, is titled “The Home Beautiful.”
Thus, “The Flower Recipe Book” (New York: Artisan, 2013) that my sister gave me for my birthday has become as trusted a source as Deborah Madison’s vegetarian cookbooks.
Authors Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo show you how to put together 100 seasonal arrangements. The book is arranged alphabetically by flower from allium to zinnia, and includes many that one might have in one’s own yard, such as geraniums, hydrangeas and roses. But they also show how to use succulents, berries and vegetables such as kale in an arrangement.
With a few basics on stocking your toolbox, choosing the right vessel in which to put the arrangement, and techniques, the reader is ready to try a “recipe.” Their basic recipe is to: “Start with a strong supporting cast of flowers and greenery (base), add in a hero flower (focal), and then toss in a few pieces full of character (bits) to fill out the group.”
With wild geraniums blooming around the trees in my front yard, I started with their recipe using them in a square glass brick of a vase. For the base, I picked the largest geranium leaves I could find. Then, I chose the biggest clusters of red geraniums for the focal. Last, I picked some long branches from the bushes by the front sidewalk for the bits. It was just the right-size arrangement to put on the patio table for one of our first Sabbath lunches outdoors this year.
This week, as Sabbath approaches, I want to try a recipe for hydrangeas since my bush is now in bloom. But rather than combining them with succulents as the authors suggest, I’ve picked up some other flowers while shopping at Whole Foods Market.
White lisianthus are not the usual stuff of grocery store bouquets, so I was surprised and happy to find them. White day lilies will finish out the arrangement.
And what would the perfect vessel be for these blue and white beauties? I remember the blue and white china pots that I have, and pick the smallest one.
In addition to flowers on the Sabbath table, this week I’ve decided that I will use paper plates to cut down on the cleanup after Sabbath lunch—a way of making sure that Sabbath is a day of rest. And my final Sabbath touch will be to use my blessing napkins. A friend gave me a set of white napkins, each imprinted with a different blessing. When I use them on Sabbath, we begin the meal by having each person at the table read the blessing on his napkin.
With the beauty of the table and the ritual of the blessings, we begin the Sabbath meal. And I am sure it tastes better because of the effort. (In fact, there is research that verifies that. I heard a story about it just this morning on NPR.)
How do you begin preparing for Sabbath lunch? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.