- Crockery, cutlery, and glassware used for serving and eating meals at a table.
'Tableware is the font through which food is expressed.'...
...is quite possibly the most pretentious and hard to stomach sentence I’ve ever uttered about dining. That being said, I don’t think that it is simply pretension for pretension’s sake, nor do I think it’s needless over-intellectualisation. I think that if we view food, and the setting in which it is consumed, through this lens we can achieve a purer understanding of what it is we eat and a greater appreciation of the myriad of minutia surrounding a meal that contribute to our overall experience.
To channel the idea in it’s purest form, try to imagine a written word without a font. Whilst I realise this may come across as an absurd thought experiment, upon engaging with it, it becomes clear that is simply not possible. The abstract idea behind a word needs some form of physical constraint to be conveyed - be that visually through the means of a font, or verbally*.
As soon as the physical constraint is formed around the idea, it becomes indelibly linked with it and will influence and alter the perceived meaning of the original abstract.
Which is why, this feels different to this.
Or to provide an example which has become somewhat of a meme recently:
This (1.) :
Feels very different to this (2.) :
I understand that I am comparing two different mediums, but I feel it conveys the point well.
To add credence to this, there is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that font choice has an effect on emotional state, comprehension and perception. Font research is predominantly used for marketing and user experience design purposes. (3. 4.)
It is pertinent at this point to define what I mean by ‘tableware’. I do not simply mean the plates and cutlery used. The ambiance, the setting, the smells - everything which provides context, either directly or indirectly, to the meal. Anything which if altered would in turn alter the experience.
The simplest way to understand this is the paradox of fizzy drinks in glass bottles. Producers claim that there is no difference in the product between various packaging forms. If there was truly no difference, then why would redundant packaging options be offered? Surely it would be more economical for producers to reduce to the smallest number of product lines.
The virtue of glass bottles continuing to exist within the marketplace alongside cheaper alternatives proves that there must be a difference which offers the consumer extra value on the base product.
The difference in packaging - ‘font’ - from aluminium can to glass bottle provides a difference in perception of the product valuable enough to pay extra for.
From this example, it becomes quite clear how additional contextual points can inform and affect a dining experience. Was the steak served on a plate or a board? Did the fork have 4 prongs or 3? Did the restaurant have good lighting?
I do realise that listing every part of an experience down to the atomic level is reductive and not altogether helpful, but to have a thoughtful, wholistic and mindful attitude toward the entire experience not only increases our enjoyment but increases our appreciation. Once we start think about how the shape and colour of a plate (7.) can change how we experience flavour, it is inevitable that we begin to think about food on a more respectful level.
To some extent I think that tableware has always existed as a way to increase our appreciation of food and to encourage our contemplation of it. Japanese culture historically connects food, restaurant and tableware. (8.)
“…Japanese tableware also comes with certain expectations and purposes in regards to its uses. One of the most important expectations is that of the attitude or mindset one must have when preparing tableware and food for others. One must keep in mind that the appreciation and memorable experience the eater has, especially that of a guest, is paramount to even the taste of the food. But how does one surpass taste when it comes to an appetizing meal? According to Japanese culture, making—and recognizing—effort, consideration, creativity, appeal, and aesthetic value as important as taste is essential to a pleasurable meal.” (9.)
At worst, tableware can be ambivalent to the food it presents, depreciating it through thoughtless vapidity. At best, careful choice and manipulation of context can provide a truly transformative dining experience.
Either way it is unmistakable that tableware, like font, has a real and meaningful effect on what it is used to convey. So perhaps we shouldn’t criticise too heavily when a restaurant tries to make us see a dish in a new way by changing its orientation. - I’m looking at you /r/wewantplates (10.)
Ok. Well. (11.)
I guess healthy skepticism is never a bad thing.
*For the sake of simplicity I haven’t really addressed spoken word. For the purpose of this argument a font or the changeable verbal cadence of spoken language are functionally equivalent.
- Dumbledore Written
- Dumbledore Gif
- Fonts & Feelings: Does Typography Connote Emotions?
- The Effect of Typography on User Experience & Conversions
- Why Does Coke From a Glass Bottle Taste Different?
- Does Soda Taste Different in a Bottle Than a Can?
- Plate shape and colour interact to influence taste and quality judgments | Flavour | Full Text
- Tableware - Wikipedia
- The Principles of Japanese Tableware
- We Want Plates
- Vegetable tempura in a shoe - We Want Plates