A Look On The Lighter Side: The eternal debate of plates vs. bowls


I was awakened from my nap by the clash and clatter of dishes in the kitchen. At first, I assumed it was my husband loading the dishwasher — he is convinced that only he can load it correctly. But as I listened more closely, it actually seemed to be the dishes talking among themselves. Or rather arguing.

“You know that it’s you Bowls causing all the trouble,” said one rather flat, nasal voice. “It’s always the Bowls!”

“On the contrary,” responded a deeper, rounder voice. “That’s just the propaganda that you Plates like to spread about us. Actually, we Bowls always load in beautifully and get along just fine — as long as everyone is willing to cooperate.”

“Balderdash,” responded the Plate. “Let me tell you why Plates are great. For starters, we stack well.”

“Which is useful if you go through life doing nothing,” muttered Bowl.

“Well, at least we don’t fight back when our owners want to pull one of us from mid-stack!”

“And how often does that happen?”

“More often than you might think. Whereas, some Bowls can’t be stacked at all, taking up precious counter space in a busy kitchen.”

“Who says such a thing?” demanded Bowl.

“Just look over there,” replied Plate, waving at the counter where half a dozen wooden salad Bowls were sitting out drying in the sun.

“They’re just out there because they’re hand-carved from India,” protested Bowl.

“But also because they don’t fit in the dishwasher,” said Plate. “Or even in the dish drainer. In fact, they don’t fit anywhere, not even into each other!”

“They are beautiful, they were a wedding gift, and I love them,” I said, stepping into the kitchen.

“All the same, you have to admit they’re impractical,” Plate insisted, now speaking to me.

“Practical is as practical does,” I replied. “It’s true that in general, plates stack better in the cabinet. But it’s also important how easy you are to actually use.”

“Well then, I — I mean we Plates — win again!” crowed Plate. “It’s certainly much easier to put your food on a flat surface than it is to squeeze it all into a bowl.”

“That’s true — until people pick you up,” said Bowl. “That’s when the trouble begins!”

“What are you talking about?” asked Plate. “What kind of trouble?”

“The kind of trouble that slides off of plates and onto my clothes,” I say, mournfully looking down. “Or maybe it jumps. Either way — this blouse was always my favorite! But now—well, you can still see the gravy stain.”

“Whose fault is that?” said Plate, defensively “Does this happen to everyone or just to you?”

“I don’t know,” I answer. “I only know that I wish it was harder for food to slide off my plate. Maybe if you had some kind of edge? Anyway, that’s why I usually use the big shallow soup Bowls for dinner, when everybody else is using plates.”

“I’ve been wondering about that,” said Plate.

“Me, too,” said Bowl. “Not that there’s anything wrong with the choice!” he added.

“And even though everything piles up in the middle,” said Plate. “Makes it harder to microwave leftovers.”

“I can live with that,” I say.

“And all the foods end up ‘touching’ — eek! — bad news for toddlers, or for Adrian Monk, your favorite detective.”

“That’s why my kids’ plates had actual sections,” I said. Then I started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” asked both Plate and Bowl in unison.

“I can’t help it,” I answered. “I suddenly remembered my brothers when we were young on Cabbage Stew Night. The stew was my grandmother’s recipe and delicious, but every time Mom made it, my brothers got into trouble for playing with their food.”

“Why? What did they do?”

“They built dams across the Bowl out of mashed potatoes and string beans, and they always had a contest to see whose dam lasted the longest.”

“Well, whose did?”

“I never knew, because I always finished my stew, and had seconds, and left the table before either of them gave up!”

“So what does that prove? Aside from your having a shorter attention span than your brothers?”

“It gave me my solution: Bibs! My mom used to make us wear them on cabbage soup nights and recently she found a place that makes really nice ones for grownups, with pearl necklaces or bow ties embroidered on them. I’ll just get a bunch of those and then I can alternate plates with bowls!”

And we all ate happily ever after.


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