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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

The Table

March 4, 2013


The breakfast room table is the center of my home.

The table itself is large, round, and crafted from several sections of burled olive wood, which make it one of the most beautiful pieces of furniture in the house. It seats eight people comfortably, and is tucked inside a large alcove of floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook our backyard. At any given time, there will be a small stack of mail, the checkbook, several laptops, backpacks, homework, and— until I walk in the room— a cat on its surface. I love that table.

Our breakfast room opens, without barrier, to the kitchen and that is where everyone gathers. While the food is being prepared, company congregates around the kitchen island or sits at tall stools on the counter. But when the cooking is finished, the day’s business has been removed from its surface, and the silverware is in place, the table becomes the catalyst for everything that is good in life— faith, family, friends, food, and fun.

As my wife, son, and I were eating breakfast yesterday morning, it struck me that most of the fond memories that are being made in that home, take place at the breakfast room table. The family meals where the four of us— my wife, daughter, son, and I— eat, live, laugh, and love. We talk of school and homework and prospects for the future. We discuss relationships, and work, and travel, past and present. The times when friends have popped in and spontaneous meals have taken place at the spur of the moment. At our breakfast room table, we have laughed and cried and shared life’s joys and trials.

Something about that piece of furniture brings out candor. And candor in any relationship— friend or family— is vital. Any serious family disciplinary discussions are held in the study. I never want any negative associations created in the breakfast room or kitchen. Disciplinary memories should be made in a room far from the kitchen, preferably where a television is present.

There is a formal dining room and we eat in there occasionally. We also entertain in the pool house which seats more people than the other spaces. Though when close friends come over, and we share intimate meals, and talk about serious life issues, the breakfast room table is the place.

The center of my childhood home was the den. The center of my grandmother’s home was the “sunroom” though my fondest memories in that house were of the kitchen and dining room. In this home, life begins and ends in the kitchen and breakfast room.

I spent seven years in my twenties living in a garage apartment. It was one, open room with a separate bathroom. I loved that space. It was all I needed. Actually, it would be all I need today, if there wasn’t a family involved. But I would miss out on the joys of that a breakfast room table brings.

At the end of the day, when the table is cleared, the kitchen is clean, the dishwasher has been loaded, and all homework is finished, everyone retreats to their “space” for the final hour or two of the day— my daughter to her room to talk on the phone, my son to the den to play a computer game, and my wife to the study to thumb through a magazine or read a book.

I retreat to my electronic command center (a chair in our bedroom) where I will “post up” for the next several hours with a computer in my lap, a cell phone on the arm of the chair, the days newspapers on the side table next to a book, and the television on. The sound on the television might be up or down depending on whether I have an album playing on the turntable.

I like my command center; it’s the place where I go to peel off the layers of the day and to unwind. It’s a utilitarian space that— except for the music on the record player— could be anywhere in the house. But no memories are created there. That special privilege is reserved for the breakfast room table.

All of the best memories in our home have been created at the dining tables throughout the house. Though I have a hunch that, at the end of the day, when I’m 80-years old and rocking on the porch filing through memories that were made in that house, the breakfast room table will be the place that holds the fondest reminiscences

There are entire museums dedicated to “important” furniture and design. They hold valuable furnishings made by history’s greatest craftsmen and priceless artifacts from earlier ages. No museum piece could hold a candle to my breakfast room table— not because of its monetary worth, but for the memories and good times it has hosted. Now please pass the gravy.


Chicken Spaghetti


1 /4 cup             Olive oil

2 cups                         Onion, small dice

2 cups                         Carrots, shredded

1 /3 cup             Garlic, minced

2 tsp                         Dried Basil

1 tsp                         Dried Oregano

2                         Bay leaves

2 tsp                         Salt

2 tsp                         Black pepper, freshly ground

6 oz can             Tomato paste

2 28-oz cans             Diced tomatoes

28 oz can             Crushed tomatoes

1 1 /2 cups             Chicken broth

1 tsp                         Balsamic vinegar

1 recipe            Pulled Chicken meat (recipe follows)

1 lb                         Spaghetti

1 cup                         Parmesan cheese

2 cups                         Mozzarella, grated


Preheat oven to 350.


In a large heavy duty sauce pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Cook vegetables for 10 minutes stirring often to prevent sticking. Add basil, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper and tomato paste and cook five to six minutes (This will caramelize the tomato paste resulting in a sweeter sauce). Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and chicken broth. Reduce heat to low. Allow sauce to cook for 3 1 /2 hours over very low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure sauce is not sticking. Finally, add the vinegar and pulled chicken.


Bring the remaining reserved chicken broth to a boil and cook spaghetti until just tender. Strain spaghetti and add to the tomato sauce. Add Parmesan cheese and stir well. Place mixture in a three-quart Pyrex dish and top with shredded mozzarella.


Cover baking dish first with plastic wrap, then tightly with foil. Bake 40 minutes. Remove from oven and uncover. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.


Yield 8-10



Pulled Chicken and broth


2 qts             Water

2 qts             Chicken broth

1             Carrot, peeled and cut into large pieces

1             Onion, peeled and cut into large pieces

1 stalk             Celery, peeled and cut into large pieces

1             Bay leaf

1 Tbl             Salt

5 lb            Chicken


Place ingredients in a large stockpot and simmer two hours. Remove the chicken and Pick the meat. Cut meat into bite size pieces and set aside.

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