Friday, 24 May 2013


I suppose that the plates, bowls and mugs from which we eat food can be as significant in inducing memories as the food itself. If not more so. Food is transitory. Yet we can eat off the same plate day after day, year after year. I think, for instance, of the light blue crockery which we used at my first boarding school. Of the white china plates at my secondary school...and the reassuring thud they made against the rubber rubbish chute as the remains of the food went into the pig bin: did pigs ever get it? And of the grey pottery plates my parents used for dinner parties.

But to go back even further, the first bowl I recall using depicted a nursery. On the floor of the nursery was a red train engine. That engine became totemic and a battleground with my brother: which of us would have the privilege of eating from the red train bowl? When we were eating porridge, our mother skilfully persuaded us to eat it quickly to see, by uncovering the engine, who had secured the prized bowl. Now my nephew eats from it.

But the time swiftly came when bowls were for babies and instead, the grownupness of using "ordinary plates" - light pastel shades, used everyday - became much more attractive.

How does it all work now? I enjoy eating off fine white china if the meal is stunning. For food eaten by myself, I will almost certainly eat from a bowl rather than a plate, or, for soup, from a mug. Is it that the bowl and mug, being more enclosed and smaller, are more comforting than the wide expanse of plate? Or is it just that there is less chance of the food spilling onto the floor?

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