Modern Design Blog

Dining table

The significance of the dining table - and the kitchen - in our lives

From May 1 to October 31, Milan (Italy) is hosting Milan Expo 2015 – the 30th Universal Exhibition in history. The theme of the Expo is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. More than 140 participating countries will come together to present solutions and technologies that can answer this important question: “How do guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium?” The exhibition will also be a chance for visitors to take a journey into the gastronomic traditions of each participating country. During the Expo, the Design Living Blog will offer reflections on the culture of cooking and our relationship with food. 

A ritual celebrated across the world

The dining table has always been a symbol of many things: the place where we nourish ourselves, where we come together, celebrate important milestones, share experiences, and create new understandings. Not for nothing, it is a place often associated with the word conviviality; a word that means festivity, joviality, cordiality and friendliness.

People dining together

Regardless of other differences, all cultures across the world (and through time) view the dining table with the same significance. It is this symbolic meaning of the dining table that a lot of countries have chosen to highlight in their exhibition at Milan Expo 2015.

One of the most poignant of such representations is the interactive table at the Holy See Pavilion. It’s a long table whose surface is divided into different sections that get activated when the visitor approaches them. Each section shows a scene from one of the many activities we typically do at the table: prepare food, eat, communicate, plan our lives, work, and play.

Milan Expo Holy See Pavilion

The table is at its best when it’s “full”: when there is a visitor in front of each section, so all scenes are active and can interact with neighboring sections.

Milan Expo Holy See Pavilion

There is a sense of great familiarity in every scene, even the ones showing the preparation or consumption of dishes from far-away countries. The message is simple: no matter where we are or come from, the dining table is where life and community happen; it is a point of reference in our lives.

The kitchen as the new dining table?

Today, here in America as in other countries, the dining table – as a place – is changing. Once separated from the kitchen in a formal dining room setting, the table is now more often than not found in the same space as the kitchen or, better, integrated into the kitchen – as a part of the island, or peninsula, or other configuration.

Dining configurations in the kitchen

The kitchen itself, once tucked away from sight, has become that center that the dining table has long represented; that place where we do many things, where we carry on rituals and traditions, create memories, tell stories and live important moments of everyday life. The place where we invite not just the family but also our friends. After all, as the Japanese remind us in their own Milan Expo Pavilion, by eating together we bond and forge friendships.