Creating Traditions Around the Table: A Conversation with Rosanna Bowles

by Laura on July 19, 2011

in From the Experts

This month, Family Eats talks to Rosanna Bowles, a fashion tableware designer and president and owner of Rosanna Inc. Her goal is to create products that are beautiful, functional and unique, offering a wide collection of design pieces that add value to everyday life.

I’ve been acquainted with Rosanna for several years, but as a recent winner of our giveaway for the Oldways Table book, I’m glad we had the chance to reconnect with each other. To connect with Rosanna, visit her website, follow her blog, or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Her book, Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions, is available here.

Family Eats: You talk about creating traditions, how do you define a tradition?

Rosanna: Traditions are any activity we repeat again and again to remind us of dearly held values and important connections with others.  Traditions come in many forms.  One could be gathering together for a holiday meal, or even just a cup of af ternoon tea with a neighbor.  Traditions large and small infuse our lives with richness and create invaluable human connections.

FE: We all love the experiences we have while traveling in other cultures. What are your tips on borrowing from other cultures and incorporating into your own?

Rosanna: When we have the opportunity to travel I always like to visit the open markets and f lea markets.  There is beauty to be found in the wares and history of other cultures.  Many times, these visits inspire me.  I then take that inspiration home and incorporate what I’ve found into my own designs.  I especially like to bring home items from other countries to use as table decoration or centerpieces.  They always allow for interesting dinner conversation and remind me of the uniqueness of the place I traveled.

Part of the beauty of entertaining and being entertained is the opportunity it affords to show off or experience favorite dishes specific one’s background, family, or culture.  These gatherings provide a wonderful way to learn about your friends and to try new foods.  It’s a wonderful celebration of people and cultures coming together—find common ground—and celebrating the human connection.

FE: What are the key elements necessary to create a spontaneous dinner party?

Rosanna: First of all, dress your table as you would dress yourself.  Let your style come through.  There are no right or wrongs to expressing your style on your table.  But here are a few tips to make things a little easier:

  • Start with Table Linens:  A runner adds a dramatic stripe of color that makes white dishes stand out.
  • Add a Napkin:  Bring your personality to the table with a fun or creative pocket fold, or unique napkin rings.  You can even use ribbon to add some variety..
  • Choose a Centerpiece:  A centerpiece doesn’t have to mean fresh-cut flowers. Just make sure whatever you choose is elevated enough to stand out, but not so high that it hinders cross-table conversation.
  • Place Settings:  The most important piece of advice.  Have a set of 12 white dinner plates and 12 white napkins.  Then choose a fun and whimsical or seasonally colored salad plate for the occasion.  Investing in a nice set of white dinner plates & napkins as your base allows you to create a multitude of tablescapes easily and affordably, as often as you like, by simply changing the salad plate.
  • Have a stocked pantry.  In my book, Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions, I provide a list of items to stock your pantry with so that you’re ready to entertain at a moment’s notice.  Staples include olive oil, pasta, a few key spices, baking products, and frozen sauce.  These items allow you to mix and match to create the perfect dinner on the spur of the moment.

FE: Please talk about your inspiration for your tableware designs.

Rosanna: Each of my designs is created to help people connect with one another and make meaningful rituals and traditions in their lives.  Whether it’s a tea set to encourage friends to initiate a regular weekly teatime, or a set of birthday-themed dessert plates that are brought out each year, I want my designs to bring people closer together.  One of my winter collections contains vintage 1950s holiday images from my grandmother’s old wrapping paper.  This collection in particular draws heavily on nostalgia, reminding people of a simpler time.  I want all of my dishes to connect our present to our pasts, thereby adding meaning to our lives.

FE: What is your favorite late summer recipe for the family – or with friends?

Rosanna: My favorite late summer recipe is a go-to recipe with many variations.  Northwesterners take full advantage of the weather to get outdoors and spend time with their neighbors before the rain drives us all back inside.  During this time of year, no one wants to spend all day stuck in the kitchen, which is why my Tomato Vodka Sauce is a quick and easy way to entertain.

Tomato Vodka Sauce

(serves 4)

  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 ribs celery with leaves
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano Roma tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar (if necessary)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup vodka
  • Pinch of hot red pepper flakes

Dice the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic (or place in a food processor).

Put the oil in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped vegetables to the pan and sauté over medium heat until just soft, about 5 minutes.

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor, then add them to the pan.  Add the salt, and sugar if necessary.  Let the sauce simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the cream and vodka and simmer gently for 30 minutes; do not boil, or the sauce could curdle.  Add the red pepper flakes and serve over pasta.

NOTE: This recipe can be varied many different ways buy adding fresh vegetables or meat into the sauce.  After you try it, I’m sure it will become one of your go-to recipes as well.



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