the aesthetics of white plate

I've started this year with a few fresh buys – some a little more indulgent than others, like white custom and hand made plates. A bunch of them. You see, when it comes to table aesthetics, I only believe in white. Be it a simple midweek lunch at home or a fancy restaurant, white plate is the only correct answer. And here's why.

It is not only because I love white colour. And not only because I love minimalism. In design and art, white is generally considered a neutral backdrop that lets other colors to have a louder voice. White is associated with purity, cleanliness, and virtue. It can help to convey cleanliness and simplicity, though, and is popular in minimalist designs. White is at the opposite end of the spectrum from black, but like black, it can work well with just about any other color. In this case, creatively plated food.

The saying itself is already a cliché, but still we eat with our eyes first. With regard to the color of the plate, several studies have demonstrated that identical foods served on plates of different colors are often perceived differently at both the sensorial and hedonic levels. Dr Peter Stewart, assistant professor of psychology at the Grenfell Campus at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada and his research partner Erica Goss ran an experiment looking at how people perceived the taste of cheesecake on white round and square plates, compared to black round and square plates. They found that white round plates enhanced some basic judgments." Sweetness and intensity ratings were increased by white round plates but so were ratings of quality and liking," says Dr Stewart. According to him, the colour white has implicit associations with feelings of purity, brightness, or possibly cleanliness (among many other things I suspect) and this can lead to a priming effect of sorts.

Growing up I have seen many (and I mean m-a-n-y) awful plates. Anyhow, those were the times of soviet scarcity and owning only what you were lucky to own. Not all of those plates were bad, I even kind of liked some, but those were also white ones with golden rim which used to fade during time and being rubbed with rough metallic sponges. At home I liked a few white plates the best and when the times got better and my mom bought brown transparent tempered glass plate set of 24 plates, I remember I couldn't stand them. As well all the other crap that was sold in stores (it was so trendy, if you could remember!) and that took place in my friends' homes. I guess I was around twelve when I started recognise and appreciate the difference on how simple but nevertheless spectacular food looked on plain white plates. And I should that my mom for taking for taking me to public dining spaces and this appreciation of simplicity.

When dining in restaurants, I believe your plate should be designed in a thoughtful manner, never to distract you with anything that is not essential. No matter what, you eat with your eyes first. That means, how food is plated and presented is just as important as how it tastes. The Japanese fundamentally believe that a beautiful dish enhances the flavour of the food. But it shouldn't overtake the visuals of the solo actor on the stage – the dish.

Although, serving up a dish in modern today's restaurants has come a long way since the simple white plate. Many top eateries are experimenting with the crockery they use and the ways it can enhance the dining experience, from highlighting an ingredient to evoking an emotion. Chefs are experimenting not just with how they place their food on the plate, but the plateware itself. Rather than a blank canvas for the food, the plate is now being recognised as part of the 'artwork'. Which in many cases  ends up not as a good example of artwork you would want to show. Sometimes too pretentious, too messy, too busy.

I can finger-point you numbers of unsuccessful plate and food pairings in your beloved restaurants that ended up as a result of trying to be too artsy and / or inovative. There is no need to say that I'm quite allergic to unpleasant food views. Total disaster on a disastrous plate counts as one of them. There are only a few things worse in a restaurant environment than a great dish served on a wrong plate (or  sometimes even a slate!) for no reason.

I remembered an article on Bon Appétit, published a few years ago when this artisanal trend was coming into full swing, called Why Restaurants are Ditching White China for Hand-Made Ceramics. I admit, that they have a few good arguments. Especially the one that those ceramics are often thrown by a ceramist the chef knows as well as his butcher, farmer, or forager. It is all the part of artisanal experience, of which I am a devoted promoter and a cheerleader.

Anyhow, as long as we talk home environment and eye pleasing visuals, know I like mine as simple as it can get. Long live the idea of white plate.

Pear, blackberry and wine sauce, chocolate breadcrumbs, ice cream
Kolonade. Mūsu stasti... (Riga, Latvia), 2017

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