Have you ever given any thought to the history of coffee tables? When I was very young, up to the age of eight, I remember a table in our living room. Throughout my life, I have had visions of this table. It was so significant in my life mainly because it stood in the middle of the room and had no chairs.
We didn’t have a lot of furniture, but adequate and certainly nothing fancy. The rooms in our old house were quite large and as I remember quite plain. The kitchen held a very large table but not enough chairs for our large family to sit down. Dad would add boards between two chairs to make more room for us younger ones.
The bedrooms were large but only three in the house. One was for the boys, one for us girls and one for Mom and Dad. I remember having to sleep between two of my sisters every night in a full size bed. Can you imagine? But that was love!
Now back to the history of coffee tables and the table which keeps popping up in my memory. Recently, I was writing about coffee cakes and there was that vision of that table. This table was not like we think of as a coffee table; it was tall and round like the ones you see today in the pubs but with no chairs. I set out to get some background of coffee tables.
It seems that in the Scandinavian countries a coffee table is an old traditional event. This could even be a formal event. From the table along with coffee, three courses are served. The first course includes the less sweet items like a sweet yeast bread, plain cookies or open face sandwiches. The second course is usually cookies and cakes without icing. The third course includes frosted and filled cookies and cakes.
The following are crowd size recipes and the type that would be served from a coffee table.
SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD RECIPE
Preheat oven to 325F degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar and vanilla together; Add flour one cup at a time mixing after each addition.
Mixture is stiff and crumbly; knead with hands until well blended.
Press dough evenly into an ungreased 10 x 14 inch jelly roll pan.
Use a spatula to level the top; imprint in rows with a 2 inch cookie stamp or form designs with a fork.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes; cut in 2 inch squares while still hot.
Remove from pan and cool. Makes 70 squares.
With each course at the coffee table, a cup of coffee is served and a cup at the end. It is tradition to serve seven different cakes or cookie recipes. Scandinavian cookies and cakes are very light and not very sweet so it is not as much food as it appears.
STRAWBERRY BREAD RECIPE
Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Grease and flour 4 large loaf pans.
Combine and beat the oil, sugar eggs and vanilla.
Sift together the flour, soda and cinnamon; Add to the egg and oil mixture and blend.
Blend in the strawberries and pour evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for 1 hour or until the pick comes out clean.
The British High Tea is probably served from a coffee table. The tea is usually served with scones, shortbread and sponge cakes with butter, marmalades and jams. These cake and cookie recipes are also less rich and sweet than what Americans are use to eating.
I found in researching the history of coffee tables that almost every country has a similar table and a similar use so surely the history of coffee tables must go way back. I have found some gatherings around the coffee table to be formal and some to be very casual; the one thing I found in all that having a coffee table is a true sign of hospitality in your home.
My table must have been a coffee table. It held the coffee pot and any snacks which were served. Everyone gathered in the living room in the evening to listen to the radio. (I remember Amos and Andy. How funny!) I believe that after the television was invented and everyone had one in their homes, the coffee tables had to get lower so you could see the TV over the coffee tables.
Use the recipes above and have your own coffee table party. Do your own reasearch on the history of coffee tables and share your coffee table stories with me!