There’s a table in my kitchen that I try not to hate. Whenever my husband boasts that it cost him all of $8 at a sidewalk sale, new friends laugh while old friends avoid my eyes. To his credit, he spent an entire day spray painting it egg-yolk yellow, so I hardly notice the scratches on its legs or the missing fourth foot replaced with an unvarnished block of wood. He swears the table refers to some important design period, I’m guessing around the time instant cake mixes became the rage of the day, and he keeps trying to convince me that its linoleum surface is practical.

Since it’s too heavy for me to lift, I once discreetly priced having it hauled away — far, far away — but the cost of getting rid of it actually pained my stomach, while the table itself just hurts my eyes.

That poor table has been the topic of many circular “discussions.” Forget about buying a house or moving to the East Coast or even hopping to the East Bay. Some days, one piece of furniture can define all that is pivotal in a relationship. It can take on mythic importance, a talisman of artful independence or the curse of comfortable inertia.

On other days, though, small acts of kindness remind me that the objects in our lives are not what tie us together. The table itself (I repeat to myself) is not the foundation of our meals. Our time together is its real benefit, and for that, it doesn’t matter what color it is or how many parts are missing.

One quiet act of affection managed to quell my roiling and ranting. He knows that I like my toast crisp, with just a touch of butter, and so he figured out a way to arrange the slices on my breakfast plate. For that, he can hang on to his old furniture.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep adding to my collection of tablecloths.

Morning Rituals 8 April,2007Thy Tran


Thy Tran

Thy Tran writes literary nonfiction about food, the rituals of the kitchen, and the many ways eating and cooking both connect and separate communities around the world. She co-authored the award-winning guide, Kitchen Companion, and her work has appeared in numerous other books, including Asia in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Cultural Travel Guide and Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Fine Cooking and Saveur. A recipient of a literary grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Thy is currently working on a collection of essays about how food changes in families across time and place.

Though trained as a professional chef, she works on cookbooks by day, then creates literary chapbooks by night. An old letterpress and two cabinets of wood and lead type occupy a corner of her writing studio, for she is as committed to the art and craft of bookmaking as she is to the power of words themselves. In addition to writing, editing, teaching and printing, Thy remains active in local food justice and global food sovereignty movements. Visit her website,, to learn more about her culinary adventures.

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