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Jewish World Review
Oct. 8, 2010
/ 29 Tishrei, 5771
Less is more no more
We live in the Age of Embellishment. We firmly believe that there is nothing simple and plain that cannot benefit from adornment.
The once humble cupcake with a swipe of frosting on top has become an art form mounded with swirls of fruit and flavors, layers of colored sprinkles and crowned with scale-size exotic animals and exploding volcanoes.
The human face, which still comes standard issue with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth, is often embellished with diamond studs punched through the nostrils, bars through the eyebrows, balls dangling from lower lips and hoops all the way up the outer ear and straight through the cartilage.
Skin, which once did a plain but noble job perspiring, providing warmth and protecting vital organs, is embellished with tattoos. And if one is good, 50 must be better.
Even our television screens are heavily adorned. Broadcasters relay the news while spinning boxes and crawlers creep across the screen giving the weather, time, date, stock market status and breaking headlines. During entertainment shows pop-ups appear telling you what is on next as well as what is on next week.
The preacher in the pulpit looked plain, so we embellished church services with videos on giant screens, colored lights, dimmed lights, electric guitars, sound crews, theater seating and mime troupes. Popcorn anyone?
Embellishment trends have found themselves most comfortable on the humble tables from which we eat. Walk through home living stores and marvel at place settings with dishes piled at staggering heights. No one could actually spear a lettuce leaf in a salad, because doing so would topple the charger, four plates, two bowls, the salad plate and three appetizer plates stacked on top of one other at precarious angles. One bite for mankind, one giant bill for broken pottery.
The centerpiece, positioned on six overlapping table runners and an artful layering of 42 placemats, is a large glass bowl filled with river rocks, dried figs and red glass beads.
From the center of the bowl rises a 12-foot withered cornstalk with tea lights dangling from the curled leaves on the cornstalk and dainty crystal ornaments dangling from the tea lights.
It used to be that the rule for eating was to use the silverware starting at the outside and working your way in. Today you must often start from the top and work your way down. And you may be hard pressed to find the silverware. Oh, there it is wrapped in a hand towel and tied with a satin ribbon bearing the hostess' monogram.
The men in our family are old school believing there should be more edible items on the table top than inedible. This does prevent those awkward moments when someone asks, "Are those river rocks in the centerpiece edible?"
We even embellish the chairs by hooding them. I've been to hooding ceremonies before at university commencements, but never in the dining room. Wooden chairs are now more educated than we are.
I'd continue this cultural dissection, but the computer keyboard is getting in the way of six bracelets dangling from my arm.
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© 2009, Lori Borgman
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