I am overwhelmed by the warm welcome that my new book has gotten onto bookstore shelves, coffee tables and kitchen counters all over the South. This journey is off to an unforgettable start.
The exact essay below didn’t make it into the final edits of Around the Southern Table. Yet, it is important to me to share some personal moments of my relationship with the table. I’m sure most Southerners could do the same.
My Southern Table
Being welcomed at the table is nothing short of receiving a special gift. It’s a package filled with soothing assurance that you are not alone. It is not simply a piece of furniture made to support a plate and a glass; it is furniture that serves its owners in countless and amazing ways.
Like so many others, my home is not determined by an address; my home is where those I love gather around the table. The location and the table aren’t always the same, but those that surround it are always family. In times of great celebration, quite reflection or deep loss, the table is forever in the center.
Much of my life has been marked by unforgettable moments around the table. It was at the table where I tasted my very first tomato sandwich. I ate breakfast at the table while watching the Challenger liftoff and disintegrate into the sky. Years later I slipped my left hand across the shiny oak top to show my grandmother my engagement ring. In that exact same place at the table, my place, I was overcome by the sea of endless food delivered when she passed away. We gathered our parents around the table on a frigid January evening to share the news that their first grandbaby was on the way.
While sitting down to a bushel of roasted oysters, I was ecstatic to tell my family I was writing my long-awaited third book. I swaddled our brand new baby girl in a bright pink basket on our table the first day we came home from the hospital. We added leaves and pulled up chairs for the biggest brunch I could cook after each of our children was baptized. Hours after the death of my father-in-law, I sat alone at our table in the middle of the night and cried until no more tears would come. While sitting on his tiny knees at the table, my son said the blessing all by himself for the first time.
It is at the table where I have grown-up, loved, laughed, prayed, celebrated and experienced so many of the defining moments in my life. This long relationship does not make me unique. Most Southerners could tell a very similar story about the table where they sit to dine each day. The Southern table does not just fill a room or a corner; it fills our very lives and enriches our souls.