Square plates are an ‘abomination’, says MasterChef William Sitwell. He feels a square plate is at odds with nature as ingredients naturally occur in many shapes, including round, but never square. Others believe round plates are better because their square counterparts are too large, potentially creating problems fitting in the dishwasher or microwave, and give the illusion of less food on the plate because a meal does not fill all the extra real estate in the corners. Lastly, some people complain that salads or sauces end up on the table when using square dinnerware. I happen to love square dinnerware – but is there a trade-off aesthetically and functionally?
I’m drawn to the clean-cut look of square plates and their uniqueness. Many believe square shapes are a fad, but the truth is plates with four corners are not new. Admittedly, they are generally associated with Asian cultures or modern décor, but are used increasingly more often in other settings lately. My taste tends to run traditional, but I like to bring eclectic touches into the mix. I have a set of round plates also which I use for every day. Somehow roast chicken and mashed potatoes just don’t work on a square plate. Square dinnerware is a design element that has nothing to do with flavor, but seems to raise expectations for the food. Guests look at the sparse sleek shape and anticipate the meal to follow. At the dinner party which took place the evening the above photo was taken, the menu included tilapia fish tacos with watermelon salsa along with some very interesting salads. The square plates worked perfectly.
While it is true that food does not appear with corners in nature, most of us have square drawers, ovens, tables, and sinks. So why not have square plates? Among other positive attributes, they stack well in the cabinet. As for the argument that square plates are too large for the dishwasher or microwave, a good compromise is to decrease their size. My plates fit nicely in both appliances, which is important to me. Making the plates smaller also lessens the problem of too much empty space on the plate and creating sparse looking portions. Additionally, I make the plates with rims; they are not flat and food does not slide off my plates onto the table!
Though extremely popular in upscale restaurants, square plates have yet to take off in the home. Other inventive shapes are making more frequent restaurant appearances these days as well. I’ve seen rectangles, ovals, and a shape that looks similar to a painter’s palette stretched out by a taffy machine. Plates such as these prime the diner for a new culinary experience before even seeing the food. Few people are aware how much thought, effort, and capital go into a table setting, but the plates are an important part of the overall picture for the restaurant owner or creative home entertainer.
I am not suggesting you go out and purchase an entire set of square dishes. Not at all. You might try buying a set of square salad or dessert plates that compliment your current round dishes to add interest to your table. The next step before jumping in all the way might be to buy or create (if you are a ceramic artist) a set of square plates and alternate round and square place settings, which looks fabulous. Dare to try it?
What are your thoughts on square plates vs round?