When Dallas-based Kimberly Schlegel Whitman and interior designer Shelley Johnstone Paschke first landed on the idea of creating a book celebrating family traditions, they didn’t know that a pandemic would turn the act of gathering into something rather dear.
Whitman said that she and Paschke had become acquainted during various events, and when the latter made her way to Dallas, a lunch conversation about a post Whitman had done about baking with her daughter sparked the idea for A Loving Table: Creating Memorable Gatherings.
“We were talking about how neat and meaningful it is to pull out one of my grandmother’s recipes or cookbooks that had her handwriting in the margins and how special it was to share those experiences,” she said. “And Shelley was like, ‘That should be a book.’”
The premise, she said, was simple — home in on the things that meant something to the women they reached out to, the things that were traditions for their families.
“It’s not just about setting the most grand tables or serving food — there’s real meaning and value in entertaining that way, and this is a little bit deeper than just the surface, just what it looks like,” Whitman said.
The two reached out to 34 women worldwide, including locals like Jan Showers, Jessica Nowitzki, and Jamie O’Banion.
“It was really great because for some people it very much involved food, but for other people, it was about using their grandmother’s china or a game they played when going around the table,” she said. “Everyone had a different element to what they did.”
Whitman said writing the book during a pandemic made it a little more poignant.
“It was so stressful at the beginning (of the pandemic), and the idea of talking about entertaining didn’t make any sense,” she said. “But the longer that it went on, the more meaningful those things seemed to be.
“I definitely hear from people about how much they appreciate the things they took for granted before, like being able to gather together with friends — those things sort of feed your soul.”
In A Loving Table, the women share family traditions while blending their modern takes and highlighting the influence of family role models and cultural touchpoints. Readers can take in stories and details of a Vietnamese Christmas Eve, a royal luncheon in Portugal, a Mardi Gras brunch, Easter entertaining, and even a 100th birthday for Grandpa.
A Loving Table is available on Amazon and in specialty bookstores.