Platists versus platterists

As you were growing up, were you served on a plate? Then your family were Platists. Did you serve yourself from a platter passed around on the table?  Then your family were Platterists.

The difference in family style may explain a lot. Platists control the food portions. Mother and dad served the plates. The food was arranged. You got the food they thought you should eat. You got the portions, the kinds of food, and the amounts of food that they thought were appropriate. Platists are top-down directors, and the children are taught from the beginning that what is required is to eat the food on the plate, whether or not they want it. It is superfluous to tell a child to eat its vegetables, say, when he has not served himself any. A Platist parent is always telling the child to eat up the food he has been served, because the decision as to what the child is to get has been made by the authority.

Platterists, by contrast, pass the food around on a big platter. You get the food in the amount you choose, within limits set by the hunger of others at the table. The decision as to what to eat has been devolved to the child. Mother might tell a child to eat some vegetables, but that is not the same as deciding how many or of what type to place on a plate.

I was brought up in a Platist household. My mother had had servants in her youth, and never questioned the assumption that food was something that was to be served. She and dad became both the distributors of food. The child  might be consulted, but whether his plate was loaded with disgusting turnips or not was not the child’s choice.

My wife was brought up in a Platist household, where five pork chops were bought for five people. There were no leftovers, by design. The only time they experienced plenty was at the Sunday lunch, where they served themselves from a platter.

How can you tell when another person has been brought up in a Platist household? There is one infallible sign. After the main course has been eaten, they take the plates out to the kitchen, but before the dessert is served, they attack the haunches of meat served for dinner like ravenous beasts, because they have not eaten enough of the main course.

I once knew a most elegant lady, at whose home I dined. Her taste and comportment were impeccable.  After the main course,  I took my plate out to the kitchen. She was already there, ripping wings off the chicken carcase, fingers greasy, and scoffing it down as if she were hungry. I knew immediately what kind of family she came from, one like mine, one where you never got enough to eat at dinner. It had never occurred to us from Platist households that the purpose of dinner was to satisfy hunger. For a Platist, dinner was a long exercise in self control, and overcoming or managing one’s dislikes of dreadful food. Hunger was something you satisfied in raids on the fridge, or stripping the thighs off the chicken in the kitchen, after dinner.

Platterist families, when I first encountered them, seemed a little odd. You mean you can actually pass a plate of food around at a dinner table? And not knock over the glasses? Shocking. And there is no authority deciding how much you get? Only the desire not to appear too piggy restrains the inner barbarian? Wow!

Since having eaten with Ukrainian, Italian and Jewish families, where the assumption was that, if you had food, you should not go hungry,  I have come to wonder whether Platism is of British origin.

Anthropologists need to explore the implications of Platism and Platterism in more depth. A doctorate lies here somewhere. As most politics is the playing out of how you were raised, and what roles father and mother had, the differences between Platism and Platterism may be the basis of some attention-grabbing pseudo-science for someone somewhere.