The Little Table

I don’t exactly recall when I moved from the little table to the big table during the holidays. But I thought I had arrived.

Maybe you started out at the big table, but I didn’t. In my family, it was a right of passage. Usually, your promotion from a table full of kids to the place where the grownups ate occurred when you graduated high school, went to college, got married or all of the above.

Our family’s big table was wooden and seemed to have an endless supply of leaves. All the grownups had to do was pull the table ends apart and place more and more extenders until it was long enough to accommodate a ham, turkey and dressing, or an emergency landing of Air Force One.

The end result was a regal, King Arthur-looking spread of food with my grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles sitting in place of the Knights of The Round Table.

The small kids’ table was also always the same. A table made by Samsonite that had collapsible legs.

The kids would be ordered to drag it from behind the hanging clothes in my grandmother’s closet, carry it to the living room and then place it on its side and spin it around while we locked the legs in place and then stood it right side up.

Most of the year, it was a card or dominoes table. But during the holidays it was “The Little Table.”

Unlike the large table, where the standard Thanksgiving and Christmas fare flowed freely and dishes were passed around at will, the kids who sat at the little table had their food prepared for and placed in front of them.

This ensured that you were forced to eat something you didn’t want, but its consumption helped make an aunt whose taste buds died a long time ago feel really special.

“Can I have some more mashed potatoes, please?” One of us at the little table would ask.

“It’s ‘May I have some more mashed potatoes,’ and no you can’t. Not until you eat some of that SPAM Jell-O and green bean casserole,” would be the response from someone’s mom.

If you grew up when I did, you learned that the old people in your family (those over 32) had found ways to infuse every possible food substance known to man into Jell-O.

I know I will get emails and letters about this, but it has to be said. There are things that are served to poor, defenseless occupants of the little table, which I believe should qualify as a 2nd degree state jail felony.

For two reasons: One – It is cruel and unusual punishment, and Two, – These items are the only things standing between the little table people and the desserts.

Vegetables, meat, and most fruit do not belong in Jell-O. Heck, Jell-O does not belong in Jell-O.

Carrots, ham, SPAM, cucumbers, sauerkraut, nor green beans have any business being infused into any gelatinous concoction.

All are an unholy food matrimony. Making, serving and/or forcing it on anyone of any age should be punishable by long stretches in a penal institution.

The same goes for green bean casserole. Green beans are fine. Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup is fine – but never together.

And then there’s fruitcake. Good for a door stop or even a substitute roofing material, but other than that, fruitcake is awful.

And please – do not write asking to send me either your fruitcake recipe or (Heaven forbid, an actual fruitcake) so that I can, “See the light.”

I’ve seen the light. It still glistens off a fruitcake months after converting one to a doorstop. Like a Twinkie or Big Mac, fruitcakes seem to have a longer shelf life than prepper food.

But other than reasons of utility, Jell-O anything and fruitcake should never be forced on the people of the little table. Or anyone else for that matter.

That’s the one benefit of hearing one of your grandparents or your mom or dad say, “(insert your own name here), why don’t you join us at the big table this year?”

It’s an opportunity to make faces at your siblings or cousins who are still sitting at the little table, but it’s also your first and forevermore opportunity to keep passing the dishes you can’t stand without being denied pie, pudding or other diabetic-inducing pleasantries.

My move to the big table happened sometime during the Carter Administration.

If this is your year to make the big move, congratulations. Welcome to the big table. And please pass the ham – Not the SPAM.

©2019 John Moore
John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, and his new book, Write of Passage Volume II, are available on Amazon and on John’s website at


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