Let’s Table This Discussion

Published online: Mar 04, 2022 Between the Rows Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This column appears in the March 2022 issue of Potato Grower.

Consider your kitchen table. It’s probably been sitting in that same spot for years, maybe decades. Even if your table is a little more on the newish side, I’m willing to bet its predecessor occupied that exact spot before it, only ever shifting unintentionally, like the time an overzealous, lightsaber-brandishing seven-year-old leapt on top of it and loudly proclaimed, “I have the high ground!” There may be a few dents and scratches in the wood, but it’s still a fine, solid piece of furniture. All things taken into account, the thing’s in pretty good shape, especially considering all the beatings it’s taken and all it’s helped you and the family endure. This table, this spot, has seen a lot.

This is more than just a place where food makes its way to mouths (though that itself is a noble calling for a piece of furniture). It is a drafting table and writing desk, a sewing station and biology lab, an early-season garden plot and therapist’s couch. More often than you’d like to admit, it’s been a receiving station for months’ worth of paper that has poured in from the school and the mailbox and every meeting for every organization you’ve ever regretted volunteering for.

For every sumptuous, Rockwellian Thanksgiving dinner, it has held several thousand hastily prepared peanut butter sandwiches, microwaved chicken nuggets, and Styrofoam bowls filled with Kraft mac and cheese. This is where friendly games of rummy and Trivial Pursuit have turned into ugly assaults on loved ones’ characters (who could forget the infamous Scrabblegate of 2013?), but it’s also where long-held grudges and insecurities routinely come to die.

It has been a forum for debate: masks versus no masks; Seinfeld versus Friends; Burbanks versus Clearwaters; Trump versus everybody; Deere versus Case; Guns N’ Roses versus Def Leppard; elbows on the table versus off; and dozens of other similarly controversial topics.

That old table has provided cover for a half-dozen lovable mutts to relieve reluctant preteen diners of their unwanted bits of pot roast and pork chops and overcooked carrots. Hundreds of pinches and pokes and punches and shin kicks have been exchanged here between siblings, none of which went unnoticed by Mom, though almost all were ignored.

On special occasions, a gold-trimmed, bone china teapot with matching cups and saucers will make an appearance on the old table, much to the grandkids’ delight. Very proper, very English manners are emphasized, and the young’uns strictly and happily adhere to raised standards. Truth be told, the appearance of the tea set is the only thing that marks such occasions as “special,” but that fact has never made them any less so.

This kitchen table was there to physically hold you up as your knees buckled and you almost dropped the phone at the news that your best friend from high school was suddenly, prematurely gone. It has been there for you on countless nights, a surface on which to place your laptop and legal pad as a sleep-deprived buzz urges your mind and body to feverishly scribble calculations and concoct schemes to get rid of a thousand sacks of excess seed.

This table is where you were sitting that December morning back in ’08, when you tried in vain to intimidate a would-be Prince Charming who respectfully and confidently asked for the hand of Cinderella (whose carriage, rather than a giant pumpkin, was a Peterbilt with a live-bottom bed and a sticky clutch, and which has indeed had its share of midnight runs from the field to the cellar).

You used to sit here nursing a cup of coffee and reading the morning paper; now you sit here nursing a cup of coffee and scroll through your iPhone. But, despite the change in medium, the headlines remain the same: fuel prices are up; another Star Wars movie is coming out; Russia is up to some sort of chicanery; the Cowboys choked in the playoffs.

It has served as a boardroom and negotiating table. It’s offered support through delicate conversations ranging from the birds and the bees, to pricey prom dresses, to “I know you’re my son and I love you, but your employment on this farm is no longer tenable.”

It has been the venue where battle plans were made to ensure kids made it to piano lessons and football practices on the same day grain harvest ended and spud harvest started. At the conclusion of such days, it has hosted victory parties punctuated by raucous celebrations and bleary-eyed, almost imperceptible we-did-it smiles shared across the table.

This table, this hallowed ground, is a heck of a lot more than four legs and a slab of wood. It’s more than fine craftsmanship and good decorating taste. I don’t know everything yours is. But if you stop and consider that kitchen table, I’d wager you know exactly what it is.