Middle class problems: Sharing plates

 

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The Independent Online

It would be easy to blame the Spanish and their predilection for tapas, but that would be unfair. Not least because tapas makes sense – a plate of succulent olives and glistening peppers di Padrón here, a Jerez-mopping wedge of tortilla there, all essentially geared towards providing a classier, tastier version of the UK equivalent – the pub platter of brown food. Sharing plates are a different kettle of pescado entirely; minuscule portions of food, once labelled "starters", "appetisers" or "amuse bouches", that have simply been rebranded.

Setting aside the cost of some of these plates – £7 for a handful of "overnight tomatoes", £9 for a mackerel and cucumber salad – the main problem is, of course, the act of sharing itself.

We Brits get anxious if we have to share small portions, and over the millennia, have shaped dining in such a way that we don't have to. Sharing plates go against deeply ingrained habits and culinary evolution, particularly when a waiter, having explained the "concept", proffers a menu that includes dishes which are patently unsuited to dividing up – spaghetti with clams, say, or pea purée dotted with three tiny curd-cheese quenelles, or a dipping dish that leads to that most heinous faux pas, double-dipping.

Enough, we say. We don't want to attempt to share between three a plate of spaghetti that isn't even a starter for one, or try to portion out a puddle of purée.

Nor do we want to have to wait for all our party to arrive before being able to do so. But that's another story…

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