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Diners Spread Out for the Long Pass

Diners at a pair of upcoming fundraisers should probably steel themselves to wait a little longer than usual for someone to pass the salt and pepper.

Organizers of a North Dallas dinner benefiting the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and an Oak Cliff feast for The Well Community are touting the length of the tables at which guests will sit. While the Scottish Rite folks haven't revealed the exact dimensions of the "longest chef's table" they plan to erect at The Village on the Green on November 11, the Bishop Arts crew is setting up a 150-foot table in the center of Bishop Street on November 1.

As Rob Shearer points out on the Go Oak Cliff blog, long tables have become the de facto seating arrangement for the on-farm meals fetishized by locavores. "The pictures always end up looking amazing and the idea of gathering with a large group of people at a common table sounded like fun to us," he writes.

But the current long table trend's likely rooted in hotel banquet room carpet, not red dirt. Dallas wedding planner Donnie Brown, host of Whose Wedding is it Anyway?, has been urging brides to ditch cocktail tables since 2006.

"I'm probably one of the one's who's been pushing this for awhile," Brown says. "I can't stand to walk into a room with banquet rounds."

There are a few logistical issues posed by a very long table, Brown says: The tables need to be sufficiently wide to accommodate two facing place settings and a centerpiece. And since there aren't standard linens for two tables scrunched together, tablecloths can be tricky.

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But Brown says the payoff is a scene that evokes romance and royalty. There are social benefits, too, since guests seated at long tables are more likely to get up and move around -- assuming they can reach the end of the table in a reasonable amount of time.

"You don't want it so long your guests have to walk forever," says Brown, who's never done a table longer than 24-feet.

Brown says the primary appeal of long tables is the conviviality they promote, a rarity in an era when many diners text and tweet their way through courses.

"It's that old getting back to community," Brown says. "You want your guests to communicate and have fun."

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