In 2006, I flew to England to study for a year. By the following September, I had moved in with the woman I would marry. As Kate and I started building a life together, she introduced me to friends and family, individuals who would become touchstones during my time in the UK. Though I initially met them in parking lots, at front doors and over the phone, I didn’t really get to know any of them until we gathered around tables of all shapes and sizes. There was the refinished 1940s table where we hosted dinner parties, the patched-together Thanksgiving surface made from doors and camping furniture, my mother-in-law’s beautiful oval piece, and even a cheap patio table that saw us through months of renovation. It was around all these and more that I connected with the new people in my life and built sturdy relationships with them.
My first memory of a meal with my wife is in a London curry house where we each silently tried to guess if this was a date. It didn’t take long, maybe a couple of weeks, for us to figure out how we felt about each other. After that, I spent many meals perched at a tiny, dusty table in the cheap 1930s terrace Kate was remodeling at the time. Flexible eating surfaces have featured heavily in our relationship, since we can’t resist the challenge of making a home our own. After that first house sold, we took on another in Bristol that lacked heating and a proper kitchen. Unable to live anywhere else during the renovations, we moved from room to room, cooking on a camping stove and dining at that basic wooden patio table that took up more than its fair share of our limited living space.