Humankind’s ability to create tools that improve the experience of eating and drinking is one of the marvels of human evolution. At some point in time, someone out there thought, “Hey, what if I placed this food on something other than the ground, and ate it with something other than my hands?”
But some dining innovations are superior to others. In your cabinets, you likely have stacks of plates and bowls that you use every day. Bowls, I would argue, are the better bet nearly all of the time. Here’s why bowls win out against plates.
When you’re eating from a bowl, every last drop of your food can be more easily eaten. The curved edges of a bowl serve as a protective barrier against spills and also a delivery system to your mouth. Take, for example, a serving of rice in a bowl versus on a plate. With the latter, you have to drag the last few grains of rice all the way to the edge of the plate and use your fingers to ensure they stay on your utensil. A bowl lets you use the edges to scoop out every last morsel. Also, it might be considered bad manners to some, but bringing a bowl up to your lips to finish off a meal somehow looks a lot better than trying tilt a whole dinner plate toward your face.
When you’re eating “bowl food,” that implies that your meal doesn’t require a knife—just a single utensil for bringing perfectly composed bites of food to your mouth. The protein is already sliced into manageable pieces, and it’s easier to dig around the various elements mingled together in a bowl to ensure every forkful (or chopstick haul) contains a mixture of everything you want to taste in tandem. It’s fun to spear a piece of chicken, a chunk of goat cheese, a bit of sweet potato, a sprig of baby kale, and an apple slice all onto the tines of a fork so as to savor the flavor combo that Sweetgreen intended. (Sorry this became a Harvest Bowl appreciation post so quickly.)
The same amount of food feels very different in a bowl than on a plate. On a plate, the ingredients spread out, and as you’re eating with your eyes (which we all know we do first) it’s easy to mistake even the heartiest meal as a thin, one-dimensional, paltry dish. Bowls better highlight the reality of the amount of food you’re eating—being able to dig a big, heaping spoonful from a bowl instead of delicately forking a few ingredients on a plate makes eating a meal feel more satiating.
A plate lends itself to, well, plating. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; there’s something very satisfying about a tidy portion of gnocchi zig-zagged with some sort of aesthetic drizzle on top. But the flat, sleek, expansive surface of a plate isn’t appropriate for curling up on the couch and sharing secrets. Secrets are shared over bowls. When you eat out of a bowl, you can prop your mush up on your knee, tip it into your mouth, and change the channel—all without worrying about your pork chop sliding over the precarious edge of a plate. You can huddle over a bowl. You can huddle over a plate, too, but it’s going to get messy.