Dining Basics – Part 1: Plates

It is tempting for bachelors to wolf down their food while standing over the sink. That way you can get on to other things without making a mess to clean up. But this is not the way you want to live, is it?

Dinnerware is something that can be amazingly cheap or fantastically expensive. I’m certainly not advocating you go for Wedgewood or Lenox place settings. But paper plates aren’t the answer, either. At least not all the time.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this subject, because it’s not an area I really know that much about. Emily Post I most certainly am not! But there are a few notes I can bring from the bachelor’s perspective.

There are advantages to cheap, disposable paper and plastic plates, cups, bowls and utensils. They are not bad things to have around. And most plastic cups, bowls and utensils can be hand washed and used again and again, if you treat them gently.  Those thin paper plates, the kind that require several layers to be sturdy enough, can be used again as well if all you put on them is a sandwich and potato chips. Just scrape off the crumbs. Obviously, if you have some food that is wet or marks the paper, you have to throw it away. That’s why I recommend the cheaper, single layer plates rather than the heavy duty kind. You should also keep in mind these are not for entertaining. These items make a good back-up if you’re not as good as you’d like to be in keeping up with dirty dishes.

For the bachelor, all you need is a few plates, a set of about 4 place settings of flatware, and a few cups or glasses. In other words, just enough to allow you to sit at a table and eat. If you don’t have a dinner table, look into buying a TV tray or clearing off your desk. It’s important that you dish out your servings on a plate or in a bowl because it helps you not overeat. It’s also more civilized.

You can buy cheap ceramic plates at places like Walgreen’s. More upscale place setting sets can be acquired at discount department stores like Target. At the big department stores, like Macy’s, you can get the really expensive china.

Ceramic or Corelle are my favorites. They are inexpensive and relatively durable. Ceramic is cheap enough that you won’t have a stroke if one falls and breaks. Corelle doesn’t break, at least not without heavy-duty equipment. They look good and can last a very long time. Corelle can stain, however.

At this point, you don’t need anything fancy, just something to eat from, something durable and which can be easily cleaned. Prices can range from a few dollars per plate to around $40 for nice pattern china, even more for the big name brands.

When it comes to size, research shows it really does matter. The bigger the plate, the more you eat. According to the studies, the best size for most meals is nine to ten inches in diameter. The only 12-inch plate should be for serving, not eating. Later on, we’ll talk about intermediate and Host level dinnerware. These are just the basics. Along with the plates, you’ll need utensils, also called flatware. That’s coming up.