Sick of small plates? Heavens no!

small plates

Jason Kessler’s bio sounds a lot like mine: He “loves to complain almost as much as he loves to eat.”

But now I will complain about him. Because he is indisputably, unequivocally wrong.

Why do I hate small plates? Because they’re completely contrary to how I like to eat. If I order something I love, I want a lot of it and I don’t want to share. With small plates, you’re encouraged to have a few bites of everything and share with the table. I don’t have a problem with sharing. I do have a problem with sharing something that I didn’t get enough of in the first place. Tell me you haven’t been in a situation where one miniscule portion of baby back ribs–let’s say, four ribs–was served to a table of six. Everyone is forced to cut a tiny slice of a rib to be polite. It’s ridiculous, not to mention unsatisfying.

INCORRECT. Small plates are glorious precisely because you get to sample so many different things. A big plate of something delicious is delicious, but six little plates of six different delicious things? Even more delicious! And sharing is the most fun part of eating, you scrooge.

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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37 Responses to Sick of small plates? Heavens no!

  1. Ashley says:

    Eating a hge load of one thing is boring, not to mention unhealthy.

  2. Florence says:

    In an alternate universe where I am awesome, I have that man’s job.

  3. Nahida says:

    OMG THE PLATE AT THE TOP LOOKS LIKE IT HAS AN OCTOPUS! O.O

  4. Mike P says:

    I agree with Jason here. Tapas is my least favorite “food trend” in recent memory. If I wanted a snack, I’d eat a snack. If I want a meal, I don’t want to pay $7 for each part of it.

  5. But regarding small plates, with all the dipping areas, how would you leave room for your thumbs? /Kids in the Hall reference

  6. Kristen J. says:

    Has he consider the possibility of ordering MORE?

  7. Becca Stareyes says:

    Well, I’d say that if you have something that can be easily portioned out, such as ribs, it is annoying when you have a number slightly under the number of people who want them at the table — between the ‘cut everything in half’ and ‘one for everyone’.

    But I do like ‘family-style’/’buffet’ dining, which a few restaurants around here do. Because a little of most things is totally how I like to eat, and I can’t do it easily at home with one person.

  8. gretel says:

    As a vegetarian, I thought small plates were not an option for me. Usually if I go out to eat (unless it’s a specifically veggie restaurant) I have only a few choices of what to eat. I am often glad about this, because I am annoying about making decisions. And when I cook, I usually have neither time nor patience to make too many items. But a few weekends ago a vegan friend came into town and told me that a local Indonesian restaurant does a vegan Rijsttafel despite it not being included on the menu. And people, he was right! We shared 11 small plates of deliciousness. Some were spicy, some were more mild. Some were savory, some were more sweet. All were devoured.

  9. Florence says:

    Tapas-style meals have only kind of taken off here in mid-sized Midwest city, and really only in wine bars. I am amazed, however, that with the influx of Chinese students and academics that dim sum hasn’t come to my town yet. Because if a dim sum restaurant opened here, I would move in right next to a pile of steamed pork dumplings.

    • Jill says:

      Tapas-style meals have only kind of taken off here in mid-sized Midwest city, and really only in wine bars. I am amazed, however, that with the influx of Chinese students and academics that dim sum hasn’t come to my town yet. Because if a dim sum restaurant opened here, I would move in right next to a pile of steamed pork dumplings.

      Mmmmmm dim sum.

  10. La Lubu says:

    This must be another one of these New York Things. Out here in the sticks, the patrons would storm into the kitchen wondering where the rest of it was! I’m not a fan of small plates either, especially if they’re full-price or close to it. I have a hearty appetite, and eat like a starving wolf. Keep your hands back, and everything’ll be ok.

  11. scrumby says:

    A plague upon small plates! The one time I had them was after a period of somewhat poverty and all that rich food made my tummy very unhappy. Aside from that the concept is actually kind of cool, like a restaurant version of chips and salsa or popcorn. They’re just something to nosh on in-between drinks while enjoying conversation.

  12. Kristen J.'s Husband says:

    La Lubu:
    This must be another one of these New York Things. Out here in the sticks, the patrons would storm into the kitchen wondering where the rest of it was! I’m not a fan of small plates either, especially if they’re full-price or close to it. I have a hearty appetite, and eat like a starving wolf. Keep your hands back, and everything’ll be ok.

    I think it depends on where you go and what they mean by “small plates.” As an example, last week we went for BBQ and got family style service for the table of 8. It came with about 14 small plates. There was enough food there to feed the lot of us twice over.

  13. Yonmei says:

    Small plates at small plate prices: great, you can order more of different kinds of things and share.

    Small plates at big prices: bad. You just paid a full-meal price and apparently most of what you were paying for was to admire the pretty way a miniscule portion has been decorated on the plate.

    Also, any restaurant with portions and prices that assume we’ll be ordering lots of different kinds of things and share had better have lots of vegetarian options – which a genuine Spanish tapas house would, and a genuine dim sum restaurant would not. Because it’s OK if there’s just one vegetarian option on the menu if that’s enough to make a meal: not okay if that one option is snack-sized.

    Also not very okay, really, if the four vegetarian options on the menu are green salad, popcorn, chips, and cheese plate. FFS, people.

  14. Not a fan of sharing food from my plate. I prefer to order whatever I want, you order what you want, and then we eat what we each ordered. If you think my pasta salad looks good, then order pasta salad – don’t try to trade me a chicken wing for a scoop of pasta salad (if I wanted chicken wings, I would have ordered chicken wings).

    I’d rather have a large plate than a small one, that way I’m sure to have enough food (even if I need to take some home), rather than not enough.

    I will do family style where there are large serving dishes on the table, and we share that way, but only when dining with my friends who have similar (simple) palates… not with my “delicacy”-eating friends.

  15. Florence says:

    Jill: Mmmmmm dim sum.

    Dumplings, amirite?

  16. Kristen J.'s Husband says:

    Jill:
    DUMPLINGS.

    Also pork buns.

    Kristen makes the greatest manapua OF ALL TIME. Full stop. If you like to bake I would be willing to steal the recipe off of her computer.

  17. PatientC says:

    I really like small plates. it keeps me aware of how much I am eating – not in a diet* kind of way, but in a “Third plate, I must lurve this stuff,” kind of way.

    Small plates also help prevent waste. If you eyes are bigger than your appetite, then you have less food to toss away after. Very handy with my daughters, they tend to have this problem.

    I also like the idea of sharing. If something on the menu looks like it might be tasty, I will probably order what I know I like over the unknown. Sharing helps us all expand our horizons, and strengthen community bonds.

    *I am apparently entering a wasting phase of lupus, so I am strongly encouraged to eat what I want, when I want, as much as I want. So I do. No diet here.

  18. Florence says:

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Kristen makes the greatest manapua OF ALL TIME. Full stop. If you like to bake I would be willing to steal the recipe off of her computer.

    Yes, please.

  19. Amarantha says:

    Small plates don’t work so well for vegetarians, because you get like 10 small plates for the table, of which you can only eat 3. Now family style at a Chinese restaurant? YUM! What I want is someone who will invent a small plates system for Indian food. I guess buffet is the closest but it encourages scarfing. Chaat small plates is ideal.

  20. Tori says:

    I can do small plates; I can do un-small plates. The only thing I ask of the people with whom I am dining is that we talk about the plate & sharing expectations before ordering (and maybe even before deciding on a restaurant). Because sharing can be fun, but one thing that is not cool is when the 3 other people assume I will share my dish while they ordered 3 dishes I either can’t eat or don’t like.

    I can be a team player, but I need to know the rules in advance.

  21. I want to be the girl with the most cake. So give me the big goddamn plate, already.

  22. Granny T says:

    If your meal comes on a small plate for a small price, then you can afford to get some dessert, and also be able to eat it without feeling sick afterwards. For those of us who love anything either chocolate or lemon, this is a winning combo.

  23. saurus says:

    Shannon Drury:
    I want to be the girl with the most cake.So give me the big goddamn plate, already.

    I think a girl saying “I want to be the girl with the most cake”, Hole-style, is basically the hottest thing ever.

  24. Bridget says:

    I gotta say I agree with Jason. I want a big plate of my own food! My boyfriend will always look at the menu and say “let’s find something we can share.” Screw that, I’m already sharing everything I eat with our unborn child and I don’t want to share it with anyone else! LOL

  25. glitterary says:

    Tori:
    I can do small plates; I can do un-small plates. The only thing I ask of the people with whom I am dining is that we talk about the plate & sharing expectations before ordering (and maybe even before deciding on a restaurant).

    THIS. It’s the one thing that drives me insane about tapas; I really like getting to try lots of different dishes, but nearly every time I end up going it’s with a bunch of people who coo over the idea of sharing everything but when the food arrives hog whatever they’ve ordered and maybe offer you a prawn. By which point I’ll have avoided ordering what I really want because someone else already had, and all of a sudden they don’t want to share any more…

    Somehow this, with the exact same group of people, does not apply to sushi. I am baffled.

  26. preying mantis says:

    Tapas drives me up a goddamned wall. Sushi, not so much. I think a lot of it is because sushi comes out pre-portioned, so everybody winds up with x pieces of sushi, and it was just picked off the end of the roll, and I don’t have to watch some friend-of-a-friend that I don’t necessarily know very well trying to get their too-big or super-tiny portion of something I’m going to be rooting through next and we’re all miraculously not going to give anyone else the plague we didn’t know we were coming down with or whatever.

  27. peggyluwho says:

    Jill:
    DUMPLINGS.

    Also pork buns.

    The pork buns cometh, and Peggy gobbleth them away.

    I agree with everything you all have said. Even those of you have contradicted one another. There’s a time and place for tapas.

    Also, aren’t sushi boats the best thing ever?

  28. Lynnsey says:

    I guess it’s because I don’t often eat out with other people who I’m not terribly close to (in fact, mostly with my husband) that it doesn’t bother me. We LOVE tapas. Even when we get “normal” entrees, my husband and I often switch about halfway through since we often both like what the other ordered.

  29. Marissa123 says:

    I’m chiming in with the whole small plates thing works poorly for vegetarians argument that people are posting. Plus non vegetarians feel like they shouldn’t have any of the veg food because it’d be unfair.
    Also, I’m just weird about my property and kind of just want my own thing. Especially in the REALLY awkward and horrible case in which one person in the party is an excessive drooler. Yes I have horror stories. Sorry, that was really gross.
    Plus also I <3 taking leftovers home because if I'm going out and paying restaurant prices, I want enough for 2 more meals later on.

  30. --bill says:

    There’s a restaurant in Minneapolis called Piccolo that does small plates, and the chef said that he thinks the first bite of a meal is everything, that after the first bite the enjoyment of the food goes down. For me, I disagree. I like food with complexity, food that is still revealing itself, even after ten bites. A really good beef stew, for example, has a lot of tastes, and it takes awhile to find them.

  31. La Lubu says:

    after the first bite the enjoyment of the food goes down.

    You gotta be kidding me. That’s like saying the enjoyment of the sex goes down after the first 20-30 seconds. Who the hell is this prematurely appetite-killing chef?!

  32. Kristen J. says:

    Manapua Recipe…no breaking and entering required.

    http://kristensnotablog.blogspot.com/2011/04/manapua.html

  33. nico says:

    I love the idea of small plates, but in practice they don’t work for me. The reason: people like to eat at different speeds. I like to take my time, others eat more quickly, so I end up feeling like I need to bolt down my food in a hurry or it’ll all get eaten before I’ve had my share.
    Maybe I’m just eating with particularly rude people and this isn’t a problem for everyone?

  34. timothynakayama says:

    I was going to suggest that vegetarians can try namul, those seasoned vegetable dishes served during a traditional Korean meal. They are REALLY nice, delicious and not all of them are spicy. However, I am only familiar with Asian vegetarianism, which usually means no garlic, onions and spring onions – which Korean cuisine tends to use a lot of. Not sure whether the same things applies to Western vegetarianism.

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