“People often wonder if these miniature plates aren’t too small to be practical for serving food. But if you’re making appetizers to go with drinks, it’s only a matter of cutting things to the right size to fit, and they’re absolutely perfect as elegant little serving plates for cookies or individual cakes. In times past, they were used to serve precious condiments and seasonings in just the right amount to be consumed in a single sitting,” Hiroko Kidoh says.
Mamezara are indeed the ideal size to hold a small mound of salt or a pool of soy sauce for dipping. Furthermore, they have the advantage of fitting on even very small tables to add a note of color or a seasonal accent. Another option, is to exercise your creativity in putting together a whole spread of foods served entirely on mamezara. In spite of the disparate colors and shapes, the uniformity of size makes for a unified presentation. That very unity in turn allows the diverse colors and shapes of these diminutive objects to stand out and truly shine.
Kidoh cautions, “You want to show off the plates themselves to your guests as well, so it’s best to go easy on how much food you place on each dish.”
With the passage of time, according to Kidoh, mamezara can take on a kind of ki (qi or chi in Chinese) — a distinctive aura or energy that attaches itself to items that have passed through human hands. The more the plates are handled, the stronger this becomes, penetrating into the hearts of those who use them and bringing added richness to their lives.
Kidoh speaks of catching her breath from time to time at how such tiny objects can seem to carry all the vastness of nature within them, while imparting a sense of the remarkable culture of the past that produced them. So these plates “cloaked in mystical ki,” as she describes them, are best used in ways that allow them to be touched on a daily basis. In addition to being used to serve food, they can function as holders for various small articles you like to keep at hand. They can also be used as soap dishes, cigar trays, incense stands and more. Though it may seem a shame to put such elegant pieces to mundane use, it will allow you to have contact with them every day, and each time you look at them you will appreciate the richness they hold and revel in the feeling of incomparable luxury they bring.
Shoko Nishimura contributed the text for this article.
For more insight into Japan’s culture, arts and lifestyle, visit int.kateigaho.com.
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