When the living room in our rented house is converted into another bedroom, and our youth centres and libraries are underfunded or demolished or redeveloped – where do we go to gather? A fix might be the big kitchen table. Away from the endless onslaught of atomisation, the big kitchen table acts as a blueprint for coming together. Not that boring kitchen table of nuclear families and heteropatriarchal disasters, but this one, where we are all welcome. The big kitchen table as a relational practice.

The below is a DIY construction manual for building such a big kitchen table. You can follow the step-by-step guide, but I cannot guarantee the functionality, I am not a carpenter. All writing in bold are quotes from WikiHow’s ‘How to Make a Table (with Pictures)’. This is not a promotion for WikiHow, but a repurposing. The best tables are always repurposed.

When there are no spaces left for us, we must make our own.

  1. Sketch out a rough design of your table on paper

    We’re sat at a big kitchen table, your chair next to mine, ladling each other’s steaming soup into bowls. When we sit together there are no systems of containment or estrangement because here we can chat and laugh without restriction. What else should we add? The smell of bay leaves perhaps, and warmed bread.

  2. Cut the tabletop planks

    The width and breadth of the big kitchen table won’t fit into Excel spreadsheets for funding applications; its measurements cannot be quantified. To name our materials: wooden tabletop, ceramic bowl, metal spoon, and what Doreen Massey calls the ‘product of interrelations’. She means, perhaps, that when you are here next to me at this table we are enacting an experience of collective and expansive space.

  3. Fasten the planks together

    When I talk about the big kitchen table I am talking about a place designed for communing, where being and sharing are phenomenological realities not marketing slogans. When I cook for you I am telling you I love you when you sit next to me and share my meal I am telling you I love you you do not owe me anything to eat with you is a gift and I give it freely. 

  4. Glue and attach the table legs 

    I am not naïve. I know that even a big kitchen table is no substitute for the library or the youth centre, yet still I believe it has the capacity to hold us. When we set the table, when everyone brings something for the meal, when we sit side-by-side, when we all clean up together we are making something that feels wise and hopeful and determined. I don’t know what to call it but I can taste it, salt and sweet on my tongue.  

  5. Turn the table upright, now arrange the chairs.