À table! In a French household, it’s these two words – translating literally as “to the table” – with which members of the family are beckoned to take their seats for dinner. Beyond the words themselves, of course, is a meaning much more profound than the physical piece of furniture: the table has, for as long as civilisation has eaten in groups and according to the notion of a meal, represented a sacred part of culture.
In German there is a term “Tischkultur”, which would translate as something like “table culture” and quite unpretentiously refers to fine dining. Ever since Augustus the Strong’s taste-making introduction of porcelain to Europe, the finest examples of the ceramic material have offered a chance to bring the finest of fine dining to a table – whether the setting be royal, political or (more familiarly now) in one’s own home.
As in fashion, trends have always washed over the humble (or perhaps not so humble) table with their reflection of the zeitgeist and collective tastes. In the 1600s – before MEISSEN – mixes of blue and white china graced tables, satisfying guests and hosts alike. With the invention of European porcelain and the soon-to-be iconic manufactory, MEISSEN was able to offer matching services, which before long established the newest vogue for the 1700s. In the 1730s, figurines were introduced to the table. These replaced sugar sculptures, which had until then always made an appearance during dessert courses – originally made popular in Italy during the 16th century. MEISSEN’s own would traditionally depict scenes of court life, for example hunting or the theatre.
“With the invention of European porcelain, MEISSEN was able to offer matching services, which before long established the newest vogue for the 1700s.”
Tableware trends of today, of course, have a somewhat freer sense of self than those of Baroque times. 21st century fine dining – especially at home – is about idiosyncratic expressions. Mixing is as important as matching, and the meaning of opulent is whatever extravagant display of personality one chooses.
Whether that be through tapping more minimalist trends with sleeker dinnerware designs, like the pure white porcelain of the “Waves” service where relief work or signature crossed swords serve as the only accessory to fabulous forms, or the “Royal Blossom” décor, with its discreet detailing and romantic heritage. Or might it mean accent pieces and even accent plates? Dessert dishes that bring a complementary je ne sais quoi to a harmonious constellation, or ornate showpieces made, indeed, to be shown off. The vibrancy of “New Splendour” springs to mind. Perhaps historical figures or objects that are simply personally adored make for conversation starters: table talk that really centres around the table itself.
There’s almost no excuse not to have a table give even the most exquisite of meals a run for its money.