When I was growing up in New Zealand my parents wanted to host wonderful dinner parties but the problem was, they didn’t have a table. They did have a small, cheap table that, being the seventies, could even have been veneer. And it only seated six. My mother wanted a proper dining room table made from a tree. She scoured the ads in the local paper seeking something less like veneer.
One day mum’s bridesmaid gave her a call and told her the people living next door to her had a table they were selling and the ad would be in the morning’s paper, but if she wanted to get in first, she could organise for them to see it that afternoon. So my parents dropped everything and hurried off to see the table they were told was large and not made of veneer.
With Wellington being a small town my parents had previously met the people selling the table as Vic and my father were in a similar line of business. After a friendly catch-up Vic told the story of the table. It had once been in the boardroom of a company called Unilever. When Unilever moved premises somehow the table ended up in the chairman’s home. The chairman decided to sell the table with some mismatched chairs that were quite hideous, blond, and didn’t match the table.
Vic wanted the hideous chairs but not the table. The chairman refused to sell him the chairs without the table so in the deal Vic ended up with an antique Victorian table made from walnut with ornately carved legs standing on porcelain and brass casters that seated 16 and no where to put it. He put the table down in his garage and let his children use it to play ping-pong.
Eventually Vic thought he’d better buy his children a proper ping-pong table so decided to sell the table for a hundred dollars. By a stroke of luck my parents turned up the afternoon before the ad was splashed all over the papers, saw the table and offered Vic $75.00. And he took it.
Vic told them he had three extra leaves as the table was extendable with a crank that you poked into one end and extra leaves could be added or subtracted. He said there was a fourth leaf but the chairman had kept that because he wanted to use it to make ‘an occasional table’ (whatever that is).
Well again, with Wellington being such a small city my father knew who the ex-chairman was. He phoned him and asked if he would like to sell the leaf he had to make the setting complete. The ex-chairman told dad he had changed his mind about the occasional table and he could have the leaf for free.
So a few weeks later after the table had been brought home and the extra leaf collected and the table French polished, mum prepared for her first dinner party. They thought it would be nice to invite Vic and his wife amongst 12 others. After the pre-dinner drinks had been poured the doors to the dining room were opened and the table was unveiled.
The room went silent. The table that was set with ironed linen napkins, an antique dinner service and silver cutlery no longer looked like a ping-pong table. Vic and his wife were stunned, felt nauseous, and realised that the gold in their original transaction was not in the blond chairs but in the table. It didn’t help that all the guests asked, ‘Where did you get that table?’
The table’s ping-pong days are long gone. Over the past 40 years it has been used for birthday parties, Christmas dinners, dinner parties, family get-togethers, occasions to celebrate important milestones and, the night before our weddings our wedding dresses were laid out on it.
Have you ever played ping-pong on antique walnut?
Mum was not the ‘order-in’ kind of an entertainer. She would make everything herself from the canapes to the ‘something to have with coffee’. Here is something she would serve with coffee at her ping-pong table.
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Chocolate, nuts and glace fruits aren’t cheap but I’m taking this slice to a dinner party and compared with buying good quality chocolates, this is an affordable hostess gift.
- 250g dark chocolate
- 60g shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
- 60g shelled brazil nuts, roughly chopped
- 60g shelled pecan nuts, roughly chopped
- 60g glace pineapple, roughly chopped (I couldn’t find any so used red glace cherries)
- 60g glace apricots, roughly chopped (I couldn’t find any so used green glace cherries)
- 185g condensed milk
- 1 tbspn brandy
Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in remaining ingredients adding the brandy last. Pour into a loaf tin lined with foil. Allow to set in fridge. Cut into thin slices.
This recipe has been adapted from a recipe found in Vogue Entertaining Wine and Food Cookbook. However, I doubt the book is still available.