Placemats make life interesting

Mine has never been a place-mat family. A placemat would have been one more frivolous item for Mom to launder and me to iron.

Mine has never been a place-mat family. Growing up on the farm, our kitchen table was where we ate our meals, washed the dishes in dishpans, did our homework, helped Mom saw up sides of pork, and Mom stacked the wrung out laundry she had scrubbed along with her knuckles on an aluminum washboard  in a washtub set on two chairs, in water carried by the pailful from a well in summer, a slough in spring, or snow melted on the cookstove in winter.

Our table was topped with  linoleum in a bold green checkered pattern glued securely in place, the edges smoothed round so they were comfortable while leaning an arm on them. The linoleum withstood years of nicks from knives, cushioned the clatter of cutlery, and resisted refinement by anything less than a full length tablecloth, slung over it at Christmas.

Placemats are to protect the dinner table from water marks, food stains or heat damage. They also serve as decoration. In restaurants they can be used to advertise menu items, specials, and local businesses. They may also have games for children.

A placemat would have been one more frivolous item for Mom to launder and me to iron. Such ‘putting on the dog’ we left to our city aunts who had standing weekly invitations for ‘the girls’ to visit for afternoon tea.

Outside of books, we didn’t know what a dining table or a dining room was until we visited those aunts in our teenage years.

When I was given a Darby microwave three years ago I quickly adopted a placemat to save my vinyl tablecloth. My morning bowl of oatmeal, even heated for only 55 seconds, comes out of the microwave hot enough to imperil the vinyl. I harbour visions of the bowl melting down through to the bare wood of the table like the sofa cushion brought in by a young man with a perfect circle of yellow foam visible where he had set a cup of cocoa fresh from his microwave and melted the fabric to oblivion.

I  wonder if he heated his cocoa unnecessarily hot. And did he need to use pot holders or retrieve the cup balancing it on two dinner forks like Erma Bombeck taking a pie from her oven?

I’m still not comfortable with my  microwave. Sometimes the dish comes out too hot to touch; other times the dish and its contents are little more than warm. I’m never sure what to expect.

While others  cook entire meals of roast pork and such, I use mine strictly to heat up a portion of something I’ve cooked by old fashioned means in the oven or a stove-top pan a day or two before.

Having lots of upholstery scraps to choose from, I cut a circle the size of a coaster from garment-weight leather dyed cream. Because the leather barely peeps out from around the Corelle bowl’s base, and fresh from the microwave the bowl always has enough condensation to provide super suction, the leather often transfers along into the sink. Fortunately, water doesn’t damage the leather but hiding in the sink leaves me placemat-less at the next microwaved meal unless I’ve caught up on dishwashing.

Glossy leaflets from fast food restaurants that arrive in every Wednesday’s mail make good substitutes. They cover ample space to protect the tablecloth, and later can be added to the recycling. For dinner plates, tabloid-sized leaflets, almost laminated,  arrive in the Western Producer as advertisements from major suppliers of seed, fertilizer, fuels or farm equipment.

Their impenetrable surface can be wiped clean with a damp dish cloth and the leaflet reused many times.

A Saskatchewan bachelor arranges his place setting on a Kramer auction catalogue similar to a thin Telus phone directory. After a messy meal, he tears off the stained page and he’s got a clean page for the next meal.

Lazy or practical? In my case, both.

Just Posted

BC BUDGET: New spaces a step to universal child care

Fees reduced for licensed daycare operators

BC BUDGET: NDP cracks down on speculators, hidden ownership

Foreign buyers’ tax extended to Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Vancouver Island

BC BUDGET: Payroll tax replaces medical premiums

Health spending to increase $1.5 billion for drugs, primary care teams

Northwest Community College board appointments made

New board members have NDP flavour

Terrace runner earns honour for U20 Team Canada

Tyler Dozzi takes silver in Pan American Cross Country Championships, gold with U20 team

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

BC BUDGET: NDP hope to nix court delays with $15 million cash influx

Union says funding could stop sheriffs from leaving for higher paid jobs

BC Cattlemen’s Association calls for remediation of firebreaks to prevent erosion, spread of invasive species

Other concerns are fencing restoration and repair, and a lack of feed for cattle.

Patrick Brown’s Tory leadership bid fate looms

Brown’s bid to for Tory leadership to be decided on Wednesday

Alberta shrugs off B.C. legal challenge on wine ban

The potential fine Alberta faces for violating free trade rules according to economic development minister

Yelling vulgar slur at reporter not a crime says judge

Judge rules ‘vulgar’ slur against reporter was not a public disturbance

B.C. runner takes silver at Pan American cross-country championships

Tyler Dozzi’s medal pushes U20 Team Canada to gold finish

Hydaburg makes it three in a row

Hydaburg came back from 10 points down in the second half to beat Aiyansh

Most Read