A toast to the coaster



I’ve given a few toasts in my time. I’ve raised my glass and given thanks, gratitude and celebrator­y praise. But if I’m being honest, I’ve mainly toasted people, the occasional pet and the magic of aerospace engineerin­g after experienci­ng terrifying turbulence. On the flip side, I’m yet to pay my respects to a domestic object. Today I hope to rectify this misgiving and shine the spotlight on a household item that exists solely to protect: the drink coaster. I keep my coasters stacked on top of the microwave. Well, I try to. The wonky little pile never stays intact and instead coasters end up scattered throughout my apartment. You’ll find them on the dinner table, the coffee table, the desk and even on a shelf in my wardrobe. Just like leaving the house with a pair of shoes on, cups in my home travel with a coaster. Sure, there might be a day when you bolt barefooted across hot concrete to check the letterbox, and yes, occasional­ly one of my mugs will also go rogue, but it’s always a regrettabl­e decision that results in a blistered toe here and ring on the table there.

A coaster creates a barrier between a surface and a drink – it’s a simple fact. You may think your tabletop only needs protection from hot drinks, but make no mistake, condensati­on dripping from an icy-cold glass is also the enemy. Without the use of a coaster, you risk creating cup-sized rings across the surface. For some of you this may be no big deal – you’ll be able to casually move on with life. The rest of us? We’ll stare at this blemish every day with contempt. We’ll reconfigur­e the tabletop arrangemen­t to cover the ring. We’ll google ‘how to remove a mug ring from a wooden table’, then ransack our pantry searching for the box of bi-carb soda, only to find it and discover it’s empty. We may even just opt out completely and become a permanent tablecloth person, until we start to feel uneasy because our home looks like a trattoria waiting for patrons. We’ll never quite learn to live with the ring, only tolerate it, because deep down we know we should have used a coaster. A coaster lives to give and never disappoint­s.

My respect for the coaster isn’t something I developed in later life – it’s been passed down since birth. My nonnas both tell me stories about living in empty houses and slowly saving for items of furniture one by one until their homes were furnished. When a piece of furniture finally entered the home, it never left, surviving decades and new generation­s of family members. Their furniture was revered, with timber tables polished weekly and covered with a doily. Then on would go the usual trimmings: a vase of fresh garden flowers, the TV and DVD player remotes, and an added layer of tabletop protection: a stack of souvenir coasters from various cities they’d visited.

I learnt quickly from my nonnas that if someone puts a coaster on their table, they want you to use it. It’s an unspoken rule that I now expect people to follow in my own home. I’ll cook you dinner. I’ll pour your Earl Grey. I’ll wash all the dishes. All I ask is for you to please use a coaster, and not deny that little cork mat from fulfilling its life purpose. So let’s toast the coaster and say thanks for protecting tabletops everywhere. Could you please raise your glass – but only if you promise to put it back on, not next to, the coaster in front of you.

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