The boom of fine dining has brought elegant table setting practices to home entertaining, including the use of the charger plate. A charger plate is an oversized decorative plate that is placed underneath the dining plate to create a sophisticated table. The charger plate, not meant to be used for food, helps to anchor the table and create ambience when dining plates are removed at the beginning or end of a course.
According to worddetective.com, the word "charger" first appeared in Middle English, spelt "chargeour," around 1305. Potters, metalsmiths and wood carvers have been producing these large, heavy plates for centuries. There has been a renewed interest in the use of lighter-weight charger plates since gourmet dining has returned to the home in the early 1980s.
Types of Charger Plates
Materials used to create these decorative plates can vary from woods like bamboo, wicker or mahogany to metals such as gold-plate, pewter or copper. They may also be made out of translucent coloured glass, earthenware pottery or fine china. You can even find charger plates made of leather. Cost for these decorative pieces ranges from under £6 for wicker or wood to more than £65 for fine china such as Wedgewood (chargerplates.net/).
The average dinner plate is 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Therefore, charger plates are usually 12 to 14-inches in diameter, in order to have at least two inches of charger showing. Another technique is to use a square or triangular charger plate under a round dinner plate, creating a pleasing geometric look. Some geometric plates may also be concave, so that the sides turn up around the dinner plate, much like the petals of a flower.
Dining etiquette site Chafalbrich.com advises, "A service plate, also known as a charger plate, is never eaten from. It will either be removed when the first course is brought, or the different courses will be set on top of it." If left in place throughout dinner, the charger will be removed for the dessert course.
Making your own charger plate can be a great craft for kids and adults. Many do-it-yourself pottery studios now offer classes in glass découpage, a technique in which thin foil or paper designs are lacquered to the underside of a clear glass plate. The design shows through the glossy plate, making a beautiful design statement for the table. Designs can range from whimsical holiday themes to exquisite designs of botanicals or birds and animals.
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