All Purpose Dark

Monday, March 17, 2008

Small Plates Phenom

Have small plates usurped "regular" size main dishes? There's a lot of theorizing about it on the internets. This got me thinking.

Is the need for small plates indicative of an overall bite-size trend overtaking our culture? We want news in soundbites, short pithy articles that give you snappy prose in less space (when was the last time you actually read an article that 800+ words?). And of course, brief, ephemeral videos that entertain for nanoseconds before they get old.

Does it also speak to our non-committal approach to life? That we'd rather pick and choose from various sources/ethnicities/influences rather than stick to one overarching aesthetic philosophy?
Perhaps we are so all-embracing and the age of exclusivity has ceased. We have access to everything and everyone has access to us.

I'm all for succinct approaches to life. The less the better, and as a society we've certainly gorged ourselves into oblivion, but there's something labor intensive about all this shortness.
It takes more time to create small plates and they are consumed faster than large dishes. Does it add up to more waste? Possibly. A pile of small dishes as opposed to one T-Rex size platter. It's also easier to get lost in the relentless maw of consumption. This applies to information as well as food overload.

I took the picture above in Tel Aviv last year. This restaurant specializes in tapas-like canapes that sell for 6 shekels ($1.50) each. They are basically toast points with toppings like Camembert cheese, sardines, eggplant and feta, pesto and feta, etc. I was super-intrigued by the concept. But the truth is, the restaurant only works if you're only slightly hungry. In the mood for a quick bite, that sort of thing. But the appeal is undeniable. Perfect for hyper-selective, non-committal types. I don't know about you, but I'm getting hungry thinking about that feta and pesto....


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Blogger Blind Mind said...

Im a fan of the small plate thing because it focuses on flavor and quality rather than quantity. I think that the American food trend has been trapped in an abyss of tasteless simplicity packed up in a super sized package for maximum gorging. There is a reason that obesity is a major problem in this country. With the popularity of the culinary arts on the rise it seems like a much more serious approach to food is present in today's newest eateries. Its almost like a rebellion against the chains and mass producers. Rather than pummeling our stomachs with the same ol' crap that adds to our waistline, we are treated to smaller portions packed with flavor. Id much rather have 2 small plates than one large one any day. It allows for a much better adventure at the dinner table. I think this speaks to your comment about us siding with a "pick n choose" method rather than one basic principle. Sure, maybe its more labor intensive but its nice for some to take a step back and put effort and pride into their product. Thats my $0.02 anyways...

10:18 PM  
Blogger sara said...

I definitely agree that it focuses on flavor and quality - and I'm all for distilling creativity down to every meaningful bite. And it appeals to the "ADD" diner in me. But isn't there something sublime about a well-composed main dish?

And I don't think we eat less with the small plates trend. I think we *think* we're eating less but it's probably about the same amount.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Blind Mind said...

I guess you make a valid point. There are a lot of times though that I enjoy an app and a small entree. At the same time, there are times where I see an entree with all the right fixins on the same plate and just dive into that instead.

I disagree about the eating more/less point though. The other thing I like about small plates is that they usually (if done right) come in stages so you dont have to inhale your meal if you want to eat everything while its fresh/warm. I like the staged approach I guess.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Blind Mind said...

Did the small plate thing at Michaels last night. God, I love that place. Had the Kumamoto Oysters, Wood-grilled Prawn, Onion w/ Lamb, Squash Salad, Pork Belly, and then a killer cheese/honey plate along with some grappa for desert. Meal was fantastic. Oh pork belly, how I love thee.

2:45 PM  
Blogger sara said...

Sounds delicious!

4:10 PM  

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