They must have run out of plates at this local restaurant we were eating in because they brought my pudding to the table on a slate. Next to it was a little jug of custard. What happens when you pour liquid on a flat surface? Exactly.
No names, no pack drill, although this will come as no surprise to diners. As one woman wrote to me in my Sheffield Star reviewing days: “I have been fed food on boards, slates and tiles. Why can’t they just use plates?”
The short answer is that it would be too easy. Chefs are caught up in a whirl of fashion. Plates are so last year. They are artists. Not only will they deconstruct classic dishes – same ingredients, different order – but they need new canvasses on which to paint their food pictures.
The washing up stations in some restaurant kitchen must resemble B&Q – I am still expecting jam roly poly to turn up one day in a length of plastic guttering – but wouldn’t it be nice to just have plates?
Now diners are fighting back. The We Want Plates Twitter site, which has just had a burst of publicity in the national press, features photos of some of the worst examples: A fried breakfast on a shovel, salad in a jar, chips in tins, what look like chicken nuggets in a trainer, food in a hub cap, cakes and biscuits on a skateboard . . . you couldn’t make it up. There are the pictures to prove it.
My favourite, though, is what looks like apple sauce delivered in a tiny toy wheelbarrow.
Of course, even if you do get a plate there’s no guarantee it’s going to be round. It might be square, long and thin, triangular or sloped, all plates I’ve eaten on in the past.
Of course, the food historian in me might be itching to tell you that wooden boards were common in the Middle Ages. They were called trenchers, descended from similarly shaped loaves. But we have moved on.
I think this recent trend has its origins in Seventies nightclubs like the Fiesta which served up chicken and scampi in a basket. From there it’s only a chip or two away from pork medallions served in a novelty urinal. Post-modern ironic flourishes even in Havana, Cuba.
And the word urinal leads me to the next point. A microbiologist might shudder (in fact one does if you visit the We Want Plates Twitter page) at all the little bugs and germs hidden in the crevices of hard to clean wood and other such stuff.
Another thing which gets my goat is if, say, you have ordered pie, chips and peas there is a plate but you have to take the pie off its serviette and the chips and peas out of their containers. Plate it please!
Chefs are relying too much on novelty rather than the quality of their food. It’s rather like menu descriptions. Dawes’s Law states that the more florid the menu, the poorer the food.
So, please, chefs, I want to taste the food on my palate not served up on a pallet. Otherwise I’ll bring my own plate.