When Color Meets a PA Plate

After a Junior year of uniform-colored green boxes, I found myself facing the stack of dinnerware in the center of Paresky for the first time this fall, flabbergasted by the sea of color. The hints of purple plates underneath the golden house chips. The clam chowder filled to the brim, spilling over the edges of red bowls. The green plates topped off by lettuce two shades lighter. Grayish blue, purple, red, and yellow-gray plates created an overwhelming dissonance when viewed together. I found myself without a focus; my eyes continuously scanned from the food in the plates to the plates themselves, from the plates back to the food, so on and so forth.  Indeed, I believe it is time for a change. Having uniform, classic, white or neutral dinnerware at Commons would both improve our visual experience and serve as a well-deserved reward for our chefs. 

 There are situations in which colorful foodware is preferable: McDonald’s serves their golden fries in bright red containers, making the fries more visually appealing. This works because the fries are all the same color. So are chicken nuggets and burgers. With monochromatic food, restaurants have freedom to play around with color; colored plates create a visual emphasis their food would otherwise lack. However, when the food itself is already packed with a variety of colors, neutral-colored plates have a more appealing effect. 

Plates are more than just functional objects; they are accessories, complementing the food they contain. Restaurants around the world pay special attention to their food presentation, zooming in to every miniscule detail a diner might be able to notice. Similar to Paresky, they serve food in a wide range of colors, arguably almost the entire spectrum.  For this reason, neutral-colored, mostly white dinnerware balances out their menu. As Brie Dyas––a contributor to critique website “Tasting Table”––argues, the “unobtrusive” white will not clash with anything, neither the spoonful of sauce nor the piece of mint sitting on a chocolate cake. In addition to creating a delightful visual experience, it does not diminish any of their chefs’ hard work. For us, a set of white dinnerware would be a deserved courtesy to our chefs, helping students to more fully appreciate their work with a clean, fresh, look. 

With a simple Google search of “Paresky Commons,” one can find pictures of both our dining hall and the food it serves. Though most of the pictures depict the exterior of the building, we sometimes come across visual documentations of students/visitors’ experiences. On Restaurant Guru, “Paresky Commons” returns images of pizza on a blue plate, bread on a green plate, and stir fry on a red plate. Solely looking at the food on the plates, I can conclude that our chefs are doing a wonderful job. However, the plates take away from the view. The colors clash with each other. Anyone on the internet can see these plates featured front and center. Based on the quality of its plates, viewers are left with a worse reputation of Paresky than it deserves.

Why aren’t our plates working right now? The challenge with our plates at Andover is the variety of food colors they need to all complement. Our menus are updated everyday, and different foods are served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Because of this, we find ourselves enjoying food with a multitude of colors––green vegetables, white starches, creamy soups, and darker proteins and cookies. The cumulative number of colors that our plates are required to complement exceeds our imagination, so bringing in more colors from the dinnerware themselves only adds to the frenzy. As we can see online, our dining hall image has already been strictly restricted to what we see on the tables. The solution, white dinnerware, is exempt from complicating our view. It automatically places the emphasis on the food and brings the best out in our chefs’ creations, acting like the canvas of an artwork. And, over time, our dining hall image will depict what we now see–appetizing food and white plates.