Some years ago, there was talk about making the turkey America’s national bird. The bald eagle won out, but it was a close call. Still, on Thanksgiving Day, most Americans pay tribute to that esteemed and most delicious bird, the turkey. What better way to set the scene for the November holiday than to create a fabulous autumnal tablescape? This is the time of year when autumn reigns in New England. Mixing nature’s gifts with your holiday table setting can unleash your creative talents and make your table a memorable backdrop for that dearly prized bird.
Gather up the acorns, pine cones and autumn leaves for a sensational table setting. Carve and scoop that pumpkin center clean. Then fill it with flowers, twigs and leaves for a naturally colorful arrangement.
Liz King, owner of The Linen Shop in New Canaan, predicts that the trend this year will be to incorporate natural things into the Thanksgiving table setting. “Feathers are definitely in this year. We even have feather placemats,” she says. Liz also observes that more and more people are using placemats instead of tablecloths. “There’s a natural element to a wooden table that placemats complement beautifully,” she says. Her specialty shop features faux leather, stenciled and monogrammed placemats to showcase the most rustic or elegantly polished table.
If, however, you plan on putting something hot on your table, protect it with table pads or table protectors and select one of your favorite tablecloths. The trend this year is definitely toward tablescaping, which is defined pretty accurately by Wiktionary as “an artistic arrangement of articles on a table.”
It can be a long line of decorative items along the center of the table or sideboard or a circular arrangement in the middle of the table, which takes on a symbolic meaning of totality, an endless cycle without beginning or end. If you opt for that scooped-out pumpkin for centerpiece or soup tureen, consider using miniature pumpkins found in most grocery stores as candlestick holders or even name plates. The latter is easily accomplished by sticking a small name tag to a toothpick and then sticking the pick into the little pumpkins. Autumn leaves also serve as gorgeous nameplates with the aid of an indelible marker. Since nature is the show-off component this holiday, find a maple twig filled with gold, red, and orange leaves and lay it long on the table as a centerpiece. With a few gourds strategically placed among the leaves, no one will have to worry about looking over the top of the centerpiece to see the guests across the table. Also try creating large platters of colorfully mixed vegetables instead of serving them individually. Miniature colored peppers, small tomatoes, asparagus, and carrots arranged on one large platter is far more attractive than individual vegetable bowls.
Liz also likes to incorporate magnolia leaves and pheasant feathers in her floral arrangements for Thanksgiving. “Of course, linen napkins are a must,” she explains, noting that linen napkins are essentially recyclable and are in harmony with the environment. And feathers are fine in your cap, but even more stunning in a floral centerpiece.
Traditionalists may still want to take out that cornucopia and set of turkey napkin rings. There’s still plenty of room for creativity here. While it’s always in vogue to have fresh fruit and flowers flowing from a cornucopia, try tucking some inconspicuous lights in the centerpiece to brighten the table. These little lights are available and inexpensive online and in stores. This will keep the look new and still honor tradition. These lights, which are very small and excellent for hiding in flower arrangements, also look great under a bouquet of autumn leaves. They will bring out the natural translucent colors.
Don’t forget to dress up dinner plates with colorful chargers and wrap a curling grape vine twig here and there on your table. As for napkin rings, tying autumnal colored ribbons around each napkin makes a simple but effective napkin ring. Placing one perfect autumn leaf or flower on a napkin works likes a charm, and don’t be afraid to mix and match them.
For an aromatic and lovely table setting, try planting herbs such as rosemary and sage, or even parsley and thyme, in little terracotta pots. Just before guests are called to the table snip each plant and release those wonderful aromas, which will add a “scentsational” texture to your table. The terracotta clay pots also lend themselves to the natural look. Spread them out around the table or at each place setting and just watch the guests inhale their essence.
If you are saying grace before the meal, print out copies of the prayer on pretty stationery with the date noted and place them at every place setting. Many families take the time at Thanksgiving to go around the table and allow guests the opportunity to share what they are most thankful for. Remember to make sure that the star of the dinner table —the turkey—makes a grand entrance served on a platter surrounded with succulent fruits and nuts. Happy Thanksgiving!