LSS: Square plate lesson

After reading this piece, you may wonder if a friend bet me that I couldn’t write a column about dinner plates — and you may be right!
I have come to the point in life when I try to do more with less, but I have a confession — dishes are my Achilles Heel. So about five years ago when I thought the time had come to buy a set of new dishes, I looked long and hard to make my careful conclusion about which dishes to buy.
Ultimately, I settled on a new set of gorgeous white dishes — not just any dishes, mind you. I decided to buy square ones.
Square dinner plates. Square salad plates. Square bowls. Square serving platters.
You get the picture.
I was so pleased with my new dishes. You know, the kind of pleased that earns a moment of taking it all in — they set a beautiful, contemporary table. I stood back and admired them in all their square glory.
Shortly after we ate our first meal on the square plates came the not-so-fun part of dishes — doing them. Even with the first washing, I screeched when I dinged the corner of a square plate on the sink divider, but I thought little of it. However, as time passed, the chips began to show — much more quickly than nicks had shown on previous dinnerware. Almost every time we washed these dishes, at least one would suffer a new mark of endearment.
I’d like to believe that I’m not a reckless washer, but standing at my kitchen sink, I began to give real thought to this geometric dilemma. Corners of a square plate, it turns out, are out there much further than any particular part of a circular plate.
Stay with me as I acknowledge that part of this quandary may have something to do with the fact that most of us are more accustomed to holding and washing a round plate. (You’re welcome to give this as much thought, as you’d like — go ahead and close your eyes and think about how you would hold a square plate in one hand versus a round plate in one hand.)
Yes, the shape of the plate doesn’t affect the amount of territory it offers, but the differences in shape require two total different approaches when it comes to care and hardiness.
The fact is that I lived more than 40 years of my life without ever owning a square plate. My mother never had square plates. My grandmother never had square plates. In fact, a little research suggests that circular porcelain plates have been around since the 5th century. Some of the explanation for the circular shape is likely related to fundamentals of ceramics and other archeological reasons beyond my realm of knowledge.
Even without the three generations of my family, circular plates have been around for more than 1,500 years.
A millennia and a half of tradition has to stand for something — and this I know: square plates are not user friendly. I bought them because I thought they were cool. I thought square plates might fit better in the cabinet — hug the side of the cabinets and maybe take up less space even. However, the truth is that for our family, none of those reasons is good enough to ever buy square dishes again.
All this thinking — specifically about plates, but generally about something much larger — has brought me to a conclusion. Even though I believe in progressive thinking about most issues of life, sometimes there are solid reasons backing up the traditional ways of doing things. Round plates are just one example of the merit in traditional know-how and reasoning.


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