White Plates

March 21, 2012 | By | COMMENTS

whiteplates

My favorite food blog, of late, is Canal House Cooks Lunch. It’s deceptively simple: every day, the women of The Canal House (that’d be famed cookbook photographer Christopher Hirsheimer and former Saveur test kitchen director Melissa Hamilton (who also happens to be Gabrielle Hamilton’s sister and a prominent figure in “Blood, Bones & Butter”)) take a picture of what they make and eat for lunch and post it on their blog. Every day. You’d think that could get boring fast, but it’s quite the opposite: I find their pictures/posts to be exciting and, more importantly, inspiring. Especially how the food always pops; and part of that, I realized, has to do with their white plates.

In this interview with my friend Charlotte Druckman in The Wall Street Journal, the women reveal their plate source: “For basic dinnerware, it’s the Williams-Sonoma ‘Brasserie’ line of 12-inch white plates and their Apilco ware.”

The second I read this (only a week or two ago) I made a point to go find those plates at Williams Sonoma. As much as I love my Fishs Eddy plates, they’re mostly lovable for how they call attention to themselves, not for how they make the food look. I was ready for my food to pop.

At Williams-Sonoma, I learned they no longer carry the Brasserie line, but they could order it for me from the warehouse. I looked at the Apilco line and was intimidated by the price. I came home empty-handed and turned to the web, where I found a pretty excellent deal on the Williams Sonoma site: four Brasserie all-white dinner plates for $54. I bought two sets and a week later, they arrived (that’s what you see at the top of this post).

On Saturday morning, I finally got to put them to use; I whipped up a breakfast of soft scrambled eggs (with Fontina), bacon (cooked my new way) and toast and served ‘em up on my shiny new white plates:

breakfastonwhiteplates

Immediately, the food stood out in a way food doesn’t normally stand out at my table. Sure, the plates didn’t scream out “notice me” but that’s the point—your eyes go right to the food.

Same with the new white bowls I bought when I made my bouillabaisse: I bought them because I needed larger bowls in which to serve the soup (they came from Crate and Barrel), but also because they were white. And indeed the white helped the soup shine:

bouillabase3

And I used those same bowls to make granola with fruit and yogurt on Sunday morning. And again, because of the white background, everything stood out that much more:

granolabreakfast

It’s one of those things that you know but you don’t know you know. Meaning: for years, I’m sure I knew that my food would look better on white plates, but I liked my quirkier plates (including the crazy quirky plates I used to serve dinner on before realizing they were chargers). It took The Canal House blog to convince me that quirky is fine, but it doesn’t do your food any favors. And, at the end of the day, aren’t the plates there to act as pedestals for this food that you poured your heart and soul into?

So consider me a white plate convert. I hope you’ll notice the difference too.

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Categories: Essays