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.