The vast majority of decent picnic baskets now come with all kinds of accessories that enhance your picnic experience. You will find for example items such as knives and forks, cups, corkscrews, salt and pepper shakers and napkins and each of these items serve a unique role in your fun day out. Perhaps the most essential piece of equipment you will find in these sets is the picnic plate.
Quality will obviously vary depending on a number of factors including price and materials used in the production of the plate but at the end of the day the plate is the one item in your picnic basket that may be viewed as essential. Don’t have any knives and forks? That’s cool; we can use our fingers and pretend that we’re cavemen. What’s that, the salt and pepper shakers have been left behind? You know what I’ll just suffer through with some unseasoned food. And so on.
Not having picnic plates packed though, whilst not exactly earth shattering, can lead to some pretty trying situations. It may be seen as cute or romantic if you end up having to share your meal from a storage container but if there are multiple pairs of hands rummaging around trying to find the choicest appetizer then it conjures up images of the famous urban myth involving bars and the free peanuts that are served. Picnic plates are also useful in the way they offer hassle free protection from spills and stains. The last thing you want to be getting on your beautiful picnic blanket is a great big dollop of ranch sauce that has just fallen off your buffalo wings. This invariably will happen right at the start of the picnic and you have to watch helplessly as the stain becomes more and more rubbed in throughout the day. The fact you know it will take no end of detergent to shift the stain does little to elevate your mood, and I am speaking from experience.
Saying that there is a certain need for picnic plates isn’t going to get me any Mensa invitations but the fact remains that without this most essential and basic item in your picnic basket you will struggle to enjoy your shindig. So what kinds of plates are available to us? What are the best picnic plates to use? Are there any safety issues you should be aware of when using these plates? Thankfully (?) I’ve got you covered.
Have a read on and I will tell you all. If you think that you can add to the topic then by all means leave your comments below and we can get a good old convo started.
Melamine Picnic Plates
Melamine plates are by far the most commonly used form of reusable picnic plates. There’s a pretty good, and logical reason for this; melamine is inexpensive and pretty much unbreakable. It lasts an absolute age and if you suffer the curse of clumsiness or have kids who seem to like to break things just to troll you then melamine picnic plates can seem a godsend.
Because Melamine is such a robust substance it means that we can easily add color to our picnic plates which can add a sense of style to your spread. Just as a couple of quick examples I offer you this set of 4, 9-inch plates from One Hundred 80 Degrees which show some nice themed picnic drawings. Or you can try and coordinate with your picnic blanket with these Gingham plates by 180D or alternatively this lovely patchwork designed set by the same guys. The thing to take from this is that just because these plates are cheap and cheerful it doesn’t mean that you can’t style it out a little.
What is extremely important that you should be aware of is that these are not ceramic plates and should never be used in a microwave, an oven or dishwashers that exceed 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Melamine is a toxic chemical that has been linked with outbreaks of sickness in cats and dogs and even some toddlers. There were six deaths that were attributed to elevated levels of melamine in Chinese milk formula. Theories vary on how this happened with the most plausible being it was used to boost protein readings in food which it can be mistaken for.
So is melamine safe and should you be worried? The answer appears to be it is safe but you need to adhere to the safety warnings. Melamine under normal conditions will not absorb into food meaning there is no transference of toxic materials. This all changes however if you heat food on melamine to temperatures over 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Food will now absorb the melamine and you will ingest it if you eat the food.
Not to completely scare you off for life, this absorption is still a minuscule amount which falls thousands of times under FDA limits so as long as you’re not nuking the life out of a mac and cheese for days on end you really have nothing to worry about. This did start out as a bit of a scare story but it’s better to be made aware of all the facts before you make your decisions right?
Plastic Picnic Plates
Whereas melamine plates can almost be seen as a ceramic mini me which looks like traditional tableware, reusable plastic picnic plates just seem to shout out partyware. They are, for the vast majority, instantly recognizable for their bright, block colors and simple design. They are by and large cheaper than their melamine counterparts and in some cases are safe to use in the microwave and dishwasher, just be sure to check the safety warnings.
You also get a bit more bang for your buck with plastic picnic plates. Whilst melamine plates generally come in at 9 inches you will find that the plastic versions will give you extra with 10 inches being the standard size you will likely find. As mentioned previously, designs are kept to a minimum which can be seen in this set by Imperial Home and this is what you will generally find when buying plastic. You can find sets that offer some nice designs by offering different looking molds like this set from WholeMarket that offers a nice triangular vortex design or this nice tempest designed set by Kreate.
Disposable Picnic Plates
Disposable plates seem to get a bad rep. Maybe in the past that reputation was deserved. They seemed to be made from paper that would disintegrate at the mere touch of a warm bagel and were seen as the lazy persons’ choice so the cleaning up was kept to a minimum. Whilst that is not the worst thing in my opinion, probably the most damning accusation that was levied at disposable plates was the huge amount of waste they produced when they were trashed.
We are now thinking of disposable plates as a real option nowadays however and it’s due to the emergence of biodegradable products that have become a lot more readily available to the market place. No longer do we need to be filling landfills with endless amounts of plastic and paper disposable products. We now have no excuse to think responsibly and buy products that biodegrade in a mere six months after we have used them (plastic items can take thousands of years).
There’s a decent selection of materials that you can get your hands on now such as bamboo which can be seen here in this pack of 10 plates by Lovely Bamboo, Palm leafs like this set from Thynk Art and Design and wheat stalk and bagasse (sugar cane) like this set from Earths Natural Alternative.
Now, due to the very nature of disposable items, you will not be getting value for money when you compare prices to plastic and melamine alternatives but I don’t think that’s the point of disposable dinnerware. You get it because you don’t want a fuss at the end and just want your day to end with no chores so you can cherish the good times. In this case, disposable plates are a great idea.