Faceoff: On Plating Food

A divisive topic, indeed.

A divisive topic, indeed.

In the spirit of the long-running New York Times feature “The Conversation,” in which the liberal and witty Gail Collins and the conservative-but-not-crazy-but-also-not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is David Brooks face off on tough issues (and in which Kenyon College was once mentioned), Becca Hafter ’14 and David Hoyt ’14 discuss the practice of plating food (i.e., those times when you just pick up a full plate instead of scooping everything up yourself).

Becca: Before we really get into this, I want to say that I know you can ask any of the wonderful AVI staff to augment any of the items they are plating to avoid the foods that you don’t want. But as a sometimes vegetarian, constantly needing to wait for an AVI staff member just to grab you a biscuit or spoon you some baked beans is an unnecessary and time consuming hassel.

David: Exactly, and who’s going to do that? I don’t want to make waves! That said, I fall squarely on the pro-plating side of the argument. There are lots of pros to plating, but I think my favorite is the presentation. Cafeteria food looks so much classier when it’s on a rectangular plate and garnished with a sprig of some random green leaf!

Becca: Presentation is lowest on my list of food necessities. Taste, and ability to be creative with that taste, is at the top of my list. Before almost all of the vegetarian entrees were plated, I could mix vegetarian sides from every station and top the whole mess with ginger soy dressing. Have you ever tried tofu with mashed potatoes, peas and ginger soy? It’s magic. It would take at least 30 minutes for me to currently achieve the same delicious results.

David: That sounds gross, and you’re weird, and who are you to decide what you should eat? Chef Meghan and Chef Chad work their butts off to design meals for you, and to then plate those meals with the perfect proportions of ingredients. Let the professionals work, Becca! Does Chef Chad come to your creative writing seminar and tell you how you could improve that exposition? No, he doesn’t. Plus, plating speeds up the lines — I can whisk in and out and not have to wait for that girl (you know the one) to individually select every grain of rice.

Becca: You’re the one currently imbibing blue drink, David. And I disagree with you about plating and line speed; plating actually makes the lines longer. You may be able to “whisk in and out” when the servery is empty and there is a surplus of plated meals, but when the noon rush hits, AVI simply cannot keep up with the onslaught of ravenous students. I witness lengthy queues at plated food stations on a daily basis. Also, have you noticed how hot the plates are when you take them off of the black warming/serving surface? Hot enough that AVI has started double stacking plates — a waste of dishes! Also, I’ve noticed quite a few comment cards voicing concerns about portion sizes and plating. Hungry students must take multiple plates of chicken charmula to fill their grumbling bellies. More wasted dishes! We might as well bring back trays.

David: Exactly! I’ve long been an advocate of trays, and I have the remains of a shattered bowl, the victim of me trying to balance too many dishes at once, as proof of their necessity. But if we brought them back, we’d get rid of the double-plating problem. And maybe enforced portion control is a good thing. You don’t really want all that charmula, you just think you do, but your eyes are bigger than your stomach. If it works with Coke in New York City, it can work here. And one more point: the rectangular plates allow me to squeeze cookies/salad/etc. onto the extra space on the sides of the main meal. This saves plates and somewhat ameliorates the portion control problem.

Becca: Except when the salad you want is also plated on a rectangular plate. David, I think we need to agree to disagree. But your opinion on both plates and trays is unsustainable and unfriendly toward vegetarians.

David: Well, if you don’t like classy rectangular plates and normal portions, I’m sure there’s a hippie commune somewhere in rural Vermont that would be happy to accept you and your freaky ginger-soy tofu bowls. But thanks for having a good, civil discussion with me. It’s been a pleasure.

28 responses

  1. David,

    Your attempt at being funny just ended up being discriminatory and totally disrespectful towards vegetarians and hippies.

    I for one am completely and utterly dismayed at your lack of sensitivity towards these minority groups at Kenyon and society in general.

    • This post is an entertaining discussion, not a subjugation of anyone’s dietary preferences or culture. It is about plating food. It’s one thing to reasonably disagree with a blogger’s post, but I’m pretty amazed by how frequently Thrill commenters have been interpreting nearly every post negatively in recent weeks.

      • As long as we perpetuate stereotypes and derogatory language toward marginalized groups, there can be no equality in society. Hippies and vegetarians should feel welcomed and safe on this supposedly “liberal” campus, not like they’re being persecuted for who they are and what eat.

      • The same way the people from the conversation at the VI about “boat shoes making you look soft” were negatively interpreted as “gender-conformist, fag hating homophobes” who you “might might run into later, alone, when they’re drunk” who threaten your “physical safety”?

      • Couldn’t agree more, Avatar! As a former vegetarian, nothing made me feel more vulnerable than being judged for my food choices. I shouldn’t have to change who I am to fit some socially normative construction about what’s “healthy” or “tastes good.” People at this school should be far more committed to creating an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance, where people can be safe no matter what they choose to eat or how they live their life. Hearing “bros” talk about how hippies are “lazy stoners” creates a threatening, intolerant atmosphere.

      • oh yes, “lazy stoners” is super threatening, especially coming from athletic drunks. Kenyon caters to the every whim of the vegetarian, what about the carnivore, There is a consistent lack of a wide selection of different meats available at pierce. Vegetarians get two salad bars, half the deli, the dessert line, the vegetarian aisle, and large portions of everything else. The only meat options are two choices of cold cuts, and the daily mystery meat or chicken breast. Why are you a privileged class who gets special treatment I want a carnivore table.

      • yes, you should have to conform to societies concepts of what is healthy. Thanks to liberals, a category which most vegetarians subscribe to, everyone else now has to pay for your healthcare. If the government is footing the bill, we can stop fatties from binging and you from starving yourself of nutrients, that is if you want to be a part of the program.

    • As a lifelong vegetarian, I appreciated his tone of sarcasm. I’m more offended by people who try to shove meat into my face than those who joke about tofu being gross.

  2. I really don’t see the big deal. I mean, the food is already there on the plate, if you want more, you ask for it. I don’t have to put it there myself and risk the scathing look some of those old biddies give you if you, for some reason, completely miss the plate. And really, how long have you ever stood just to ask for a biscuit or something?

  3. “the liberal and witty Gail Collins and the conservative-but-not-crazy-but-also-not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is David Brooks”

    A suggestion for alternative wording: “liberal Gail Gollins and conservative David Brooks”

    Look, we get you’re biased, but you don’t have to be that obnoxiously blatant about it in an article that has nothing to do with politics at all.

  4. Hey, relevant comment to do with the actual article over here…

    I am a confused student studying abraod: Is everything plated now?

    The way I always did Pierce was by going up to multiple stations and taking a little bit of what I wanted from each station. I also enjoyed being able to choose which portions I wanted. I eat meat, and I doubt that this is an issue only affecting vegetarians. For instance, if Peirce is offering delicious fresh cut french fries, I will add those to my meal even if i took another portion from a different station. Also, one of my favorite breakfasts was two fried eggs in a bowl, a hash brown, some spinach leaves and siracha. Is this no longer possible? And is it really more economical to plate the food? Sounds like it leads to wasted food and an abundance of dishes…

  5. Back in my day, we roasted animals on some heated up grills, sometimes spickets, and ate them on some plates or with our hands. You know, this is splitting hairs here. I like to use my hands. My second wife was all about the silverware. Anyways, what I’m really trying to say is, I hope this has something to do with your academics.

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