Eating out certainly isn’t what it used to be. Chefs are becoming more creative, not only in the food they serve, but also in the way it’s presented. So much so that it seems the traditional table setting is distinctly ‘old hat.’ In fact, if you go to a trendy eaterie, you’re more likely to be served your starter in that old hat than –dare I say it? – A plate.
Fancy eating chips from a skip?
We wouldn’t dream of eating chips from a wheelie bin at home and yet it seems acceptable to be served them from a miniature version in a brasserie. Similarly I always thought that a shovel was for digging a hole or shifting snow, but it seems I’m wrong. It’s actually the perfect receptacle for a full English breakfast. Silly me…
The list goes on: salads served on table tennis bats, starters served on a brick, Shepherd’s pie served in a pint pot. And when you’ve run out of solid options, how about looking in the cloakroom for inspiration? In some restaurants it’s not uncommon to see bread served in a flat cap or slipper or deep fried brie balls in a training shoe? These are all real examples of food served to Daily Mail readers, photos of which appear in a recent article.
Why plates are great
No one can doubt the imagination that’s gone into conceiving these dishes, but do we actually want this kind of thing? When most people go out for a meal, I’ll wager that most would want the food served on a plate. That’s certainly what comedian John Finniemore wants. He even wrote a song about it which featured on his BBC Radio 4 show John Finniemore’s Souvenir Programme. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX4KuEAYIYY
For starters (no pun intended) there’s the practicality of eating patatas bravas from a teacup or apple crumble and custard from a plank of wood. Perhaps of more concern, though, is the hygiene aspect.
Plates are flat with a curved lip and are generally manufactured from glazed porcelain, china, stoneware or earthenware, or glass. Because they’re flat they’re easy to keep clean. They can go in the dishwasher or be washed by hand. Similarly bowls are easy to keep clean. We can actually see whether a plate or bowl is clean with our own eyes.
The same can’t be said for flat caps and slippers. Firstly, you wonder whether
they’ve been worn before. Secondly, even if they’re lined with greaseproof paper, the fact that they’re fabric means that they can pick up dirt and it’s unlikely they’ll be laundered from one use to the next. In the same way, miniature shopping trolleys and wheelie bins aren’t as easy to keep clean. And as for bricks… you see where I’m going with this.
Is fancy presentation putting food hygiene at risk?
Anything that can’t be washed easily is a food hygiene risk. Bare, untreated wood might look attractive and rustic, but it is porous. This means it can get wet and has several nooks and crannies where microbes can grow. Those microbes can be transferred to food and could result in food poisoning. Wicker baskets used to serve food are also difficult to clean and dry and can have the same result.
Extra care should also be taken if serving food or drinks from tins. If they’re coated in plastic inside, they can be cleaned. But bare metal can react with certain food or drinks, especially if they are acidic, and contamination can occur.
Watching the Mary Portas show ‘What Britain Buys’ last night it seems that there has certainly been a shift from using plates at home. Instead people are buying more bowls. The reason? We don’t sit around the table as a family as much. Bowls are portable; you’re less likely to spill from them when you’re sitting on the sofa. You can wander around the room with a bowl in one hand and your mobile phone in the other (a sign of the times?) But for hygiene’s sake, let’s hope that we stick with something that can be cleaned and dried properly.