Table tips

Carol O’Callaghan offers some ideas for those preparing the table this Christmas.

Christmas culinary matters are either joyfully anticipated or, for most of us, akin to 12 days of hard labour.

So we’re probably likely to give thanks for supermarket puddings and cakes, ready-peeled vegetables, bumper snack packs and a jar of curry sauce to add to left-over turkey on Saint Stephen’s Day.

If what you’re planning to serve up won’t have your guests salivating in anticipation, make sure you have plenty of their favourite tipple so when the turkey comes out of the oven on the burnt side of crisp and two hours behind schedule, everyone will be too hungry to notice.

Another excellent distraction is to plan a gorgeous table and it can be done the day before, that’s if you have a separate table for breakfast.

It also means you’ll have one less job to do on Christmas Day while you figure out what time the sprouts need to go on.

Colour is unavoidably in fashion so a festive runner in deep burgundy red, green or gold can be unrolled along the length of the table and decorated at regular intervals with candlesticks and arrangements of holly and ivy.

Even consider putting a selection of baubles in a glass bowl as a centrepiece or, better still, if you have a tiered cake stand, load it with baubles and pine cones.

This will give your centrepiece height but not so high that guests won’t be able to see each other across the table. Also consider an extra tall candelabrum or a selection of individual tall candlesticks that won’t compete for space with the all-important serving dishes.

The exacting host who insists on symmetry, modernity and minimalism will stick with white dinner plates, they provide the perfect backdrop to off-set your perfectly arranged turkey, ham and roasties.

If you don’t have a full set of white ware, don’t worry as mix and match has its own charm. Just gather together the best of what you have and pick two sets. Alternate them around the table, it will create a pattern.

Glasses, however, do need to match or your otherwise perfect table will look thrown together. The only exception is if you alternate some tinted glasses with clear, but then you’ll need matching plates.

In short, one major feature of table décor — glasses or plates — must match.

Every house will benefit from extra glasses, so now might be the time to pop out to your local interiors shop, or even to the supermarket where plain wine glasses and tumblers can be purchased very cheaply.

Matching cutlery is ideal but not absolutely essential as it tends to be tucked in close to your plate.

For ease and convenience there are gorgeous plain and patterned paper napkins to match the colour theme on the table, but linen if you have it, adds a touch of luxury, if a great deal of laundry and ironing work for the poor host.

But if you don’t make an effort for Christmas dinner, then when will you?

¦ Next week it’s a fast dash round the shops for last minute gifts.


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