Why I’m obsessed with plates

Through the lens, lightly


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Thu 29 Sep 2022, 8:19 PM

As I write this, there’s a palpable flutter of excitement in me. I’m expecting a delivery. Of dinner plates. A pair of white ceramic ones, with a slightly raised design around their round edges. And a pair of curly-green-leaves-splashed-on-distressed-ivory ones, with uneven edges. In my mind’s eye, I am trying to visualise myself sitting at the dining table — by myself, or maybe with a special someone or an accidental tourist across me — and tucking into a breakfast omelette, with crisp, buttered toast on the side (both sets of plates are large enough to accommodate mains and sides). Maybe the normally commonplace eggs-and-bread will take on a life of their own when they’re laid to rest on my new plates. Then, I imagined having a sit-down dinner, and even if I’m only serving biryani and a half-baked salad, no one will dare complain about the measliness of the meal when it’s being served on a platter that’s big on aesthetics.

These days, I’m obsessed with plates. It probably started when there was a dinner discussion on how terribly important plates have become — and how judgements are drawn when the host (or hostess) serves you supper, or dinner, on dour-faced crockery. “It shows a lack of effort,” one person whose opinion matters a great deal to me pointed out.

I think I’ve come a long way from the time when I first moved to Dubai, and I’d walked across to a supermarket, where everything seemed super cheap (mugs for Dh2.50, quarter plates for Dh3 etc.) to stock up on plates. It was a deliberate decision — this wanting to settle for supermarket tableware instead of visiting a proper ‘home store’ — because I was determined to not waste money on plates… what’s their purpose anyway, they are meant to be eaten out of — so, as long as the food is good, nothing else should matter.

I remember buying three monotone melamine dinner plates. And I still remember the colours: a ghastly green, a nice-ish dark blue, and a weird blue (I think it’s called ‘police strobe’). “Why are you buying three?” my friend who was accompanying me asked. “You only need one.”

“No, I want to buy three — just in case I need a pop of variety in my life,” I philosophised. Those three plates — each for Dh7 — served me well for the next decade (I bought more plates later — mostly mindlessly, not really caring about look or feel — but those three remained my mainstay). Once, I kept the dark blue one on the stove by mistake, and it sustained a burn on one side, but I couldn’t be bothered.

After the aforementioned dinner banter, however, I’ve started believing in the efficacy of the statement: that your plates show you up for who you are.

The other piece of gem I picked up is that it’s uncool these days to stick to the protocol of sameness when laying out plates. Unless it’s a formal, stuffy dinner, the way forward is for a plethora of options in the looks department of plates. Let people pick up whatever they like best. Apparently, it works to get the best out of them. If you are a messy eater, you will gravitate towards intricately-designed ones where the debris on your plate will get camouflaged. If you are a clean eater, you are likely to be drawn towards neat lines with minimal distractions. And so on.

Who’d have guessed plates on your table can occupy so much mindspace?


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