Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Table Talk, Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,387 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,656 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life

For this week’s Farm Kitchen/Table Talk Beginner Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, I gave Nora the job of setting her family’s table each night.*

This posed a couple of problems, the first being that they rarely sat down to dinner together. Between sports practices and late nights at the office and different hungry bellies, it just wasn’t happening enough to make setting a table worth it. I pictured their dining room table looking like something out of Miss Havisham’s house … great for a Halloween scene, but not so inspiring for family life.

So I took Mr. and Mrs. Nora’s Parents out back and gave them a stern talking to. They promised to rearrange their schedules to accommodate seven nights in a row of family dinner.

Nora and I got crackin’.

photo by Alexandra Constantin via Wikimedia Commons

First, we went through the kitchen, looking for little-used dishes. We figured this was a special week, so no holds barred! We got out the good stuff, that’s usually only reserved for holidays, plus some even perkier perks: things like cloth napkins (we attempted some fancy folding, but evidently we need a whole ‘nother merit badge for that), tablecloths, wine goblets for ice water, and even a nifty candlestick holder, complete with candles. Who doesn’t love a candlelit dinner, am I right? You know I am.

It turns out our little experiment was a big hit. The whole family loved the atmosphere so much that the seven days flew by and extended into nine. Nora got even more creative and began making homemade placecards and even menus. Then, she picked themes for her dining-room restaurant: barbeque night complete with a picnic style on the floor, Italian night with a checkered tablecloth and background opera music (reenacting the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp was a must), and a breakfast-for-dinner night where she required everyone to dress in pajamas for their pancake supper.

After the nine nights of feasting, they must have realized how sad I was to be missing out (I think they saw me peeking through the front window) and they let me in for night #10. Too bad it was Chinese night—I was nearly impaled by a chopstick. But, no matter.

Life went back to almost normal for Nora’s family, and family dinner nights aren’t every single night anymore, but they are a minimum of two nights per week now. Hey, that’s two nights for everyone to look forward to—and two nights I don’t have to set my own table. Voila!

*Note: To earn this Young Cultivator Badge, your youngster only has to set the table one night per week for a month. Nora and I just like overachieving.

  1. BB king says:

    Ah some civilization! No one sits down to eat together anymore much less with silverware, real china plates and goblets ( forsooth!) I grew up in the south and my mother was a true southern belle so all meals were actually very formal- real silver, real good china, ofcourse cloth napkins ( with silver napkin rings- but the European style -you use the big ole napkin all week unless you really made a mess of it- you had your own napkin ring too ) and last but not least real linen tablecloths. Good fine lacy ones, like the ones you saw on Downton Abbey. I kinda miss all that and I can pull it all off in a pinch if needs be. Lordy I stlll have many linens from the family, But alas ,I live alone with 3 cats and uh, not such a formal lifestyle. But I do use real china( funky vintage 50s plates ) and real crystal. Enjoy your family get togethers Nora – it will be what you remember all your life

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I remember learning about how to set a table in Girl Scouts when we worked on several cooking badges. At the time, it was fun making the place settings all fixed up special. One of my regular chores was setting the table every evening for dinner for the family. We had a big crowd for many years and I got a lot of practice. Right out of college, I got a waitress job at a local southern style restaurant so I got a ton of experience setting tables there! It is a good skill and when using colors and creativity, it makes a meal feel special. I am glad that the Young Cultivators are still learning these traditional home skills because they do make a difference.

  3. Karlyne says:

    I recently mentioned to a friend, “Why would anyone put carpet in a dining room?!”, and he said, “Well, nobody uses it for eating in, anymore, right?” What a sad commentary! But I was able to assure him that we do sit down at the table for lots of meals – and, preferably, not over carpet.

  4. Krista says:

    I am proud to say that we have family dinner every night! We even put the baby in the high chair and scoot him up to the table. Since the boys are still so young we are just fine using our not so fancy plates and plastic plates for them. One day we will break out the nice dinner plates. Until then I think I will teach the boys to set the table with our daily plates.

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