- From the Han Dynasty to Marco Polo to Battuta to Von Tschirnhaus and Böttger to today. A brief history of porcelain making and trade. Porcelain originated in China. Pure porcelain was first made during the Han dynasty. Marco Polo called it porcella and Ibn Battuta wrote about it in his naratives. Porcelain in Europe was first (re)produced by Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus and his assistant Johann Friedrich Böttger in 1708. Today porcelain is produced in many countries and has many uses.
- The influence of color and shape of the plate on our food intake. The color of the plate exerts a compelling influence on people’s perception of the food, the shape of the plate does not.
- The influence of the size of the plate on food intake. The bigger the size of the plate, the more we tend to eat. Some separate researchers have said that linking plate size and portion size is too simplified an explanation, and that other details, like the amount of food available or remaining in a serving dish, may have more of an influence on how much people serve themselves.
- How feeding is influenced by the arrangement of food on the plate. Food presented in a neatly arranged presentation is liked more than the same food presented in a messy manner.
Is time our hunter and killer, or is it a companion on our journey? Does it stalk us and run with us until it decides to make the kill, or is it here to remind us to cherish every moment we’ve got, because moments never come back. It doesn’t matter if we’re alone and enjoying our bits of peace and quiet, our coffee or tea before the long day ahead of us; or if we’re waking up next to someone, and take moments to watch them sleep and listen to their breathing…or snoring – I need you back in reality, now, thank you.
Our lives have a fast pace. Our lives are filled with responsibilities, problems and issues. We have jobs, studies, families and cars (I consider the car a family member. What?), but we don’t have (enough) time. We try to make a cut somewhere in order to make time elsewhere. We have planners, calendars, notepads and notebooks. Yes, we are organized and busy, but are we healthy?
How long has it been since you’ve put a warm home meal in your favorite china plates? When was the last time you made your dish look good? I know it sounds weird, but the color of the plate, the size of the plate and the appearance of the food on the plate may influence food intake and appetite. Well, at least that’s what studies are saying these days.
Do you know why porcelain is also called fine china? Because porcelain originated in China. Daaah!
FROM THE HAN DYNASTY TO MARCO POLO TO BATTUTA TO VON TSCHIRNHAUS AND BÖTTGER TO TODAY (WHEW!)
Some experts believe, that the first pure porcelain was made in Zhejiang province during the Eastern Han dynasty (202 BC-220 AD). (1)
Emperor Guangwu of Han
The recipe that was used to produce porcelain is this:
(Ahem, don’t try this at home!)
- Kaolin: This is essential ingredient composed largely by the clay mineral kaolinite (Al2Si2O5(OH)4);
- porcelain stone: decomposed micaceous (a group of sheet silicate (phyllosilicate) minerals) or feldspar (tectosilicate minerals (KAlSi3O8 – NaAlSi3O8 – CaAl2Si2O8)) rocks, also known as petunse;
- feldspar (tectosilicate minerals (KAlSi3O8 – NaAlSi3O8 – CaAl2Si2O8));
- quartz (continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall chemical formula of SiO2).
- Form it!
- Glaze it! (Glazing serves to color, decorate or waterproof an item or to make the item resistant to dirt and stains).
- Decorate it! (Porcelain may be decorated under the glaze, using pigments that include cobalt and copper or over the glaze using colored enamels).
- Fire it! (Porcelain is fired at a very high temperature, so that the body can vitrify and become non-porous).
By the first century of the common era (CE) imperial Rome was connected to China by a delicate filament of silk that stretched for more than 11.000 kilometers from Luoyang, the capital of the Han dynasty, to Rome. Roman weavers, lacking the strongly desired silkworm, were dependent on the import of Chinese raw materials to produce the luxury fabric, that the Roman high society craved.
Ming dynasty plate:
Chinese porcelain industry kept flourishing and porcelain was mass-produced in huge numbers. Marco Polo (1254-1324) marveled over ordinary people eating rice from beautiful bowls, which were made by a material, that looked like the shining surface of a cowry shell (or porcella in his language). (2)
The Medieval Moroccan Muslim traveler and scholar Ibn Battuta (1304–1368 or 1369) traveled through China in 1345 and in his narratives recorded, that the Chinese were shipping “green pots” from their south ports to the homes of affluent merchants on Africa’s east coast. He highly praised the craftsmen and their porcelain. (2) (3)
In Europe, craftsmen and alchemists attempted over and over to reproduce Chinese porcelain, but were not successful. First European soft-paste porcelain was the Medici porcelain in Florence, but that was not the “real thing”.
Countless experiments to produce porcelain had failed and then finally in 1708, in the German state of Saxony, a man named Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus produced a hard, white, translucent type of porcelain specimen with a combination of ingredients, including kaolin and alabaster, mined from a Saxon mine in Colditz.
Left: Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, Image Source: Martin Bernigeroth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Right: Johann Friedrich Böttger, Image Source: Author unknown, via Wikimedia Commons
He was employed by Augustus II the Strong. Tschirnhaus was assisted by a pharmacist (who claimed he could turn dross into gold, sure, sure…) named Johann Friedrich Böttger. In October 1708 Tschirnhaus died, and it was left to Böttger to report to Augustus, in March 1709, that he could make porcelain. The first factory was established in 1710 and the porcelain that was produced was resistant to thermal shock. (4)
Bravo Europe, B R A V O! *insert sarcastic tone of voice*
Meissen plate from the huge and famous Swan Service, 1737-42, Image Source: By Kaolin (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
English antique porcelain:
Antique porcelain Austria:
Today porcelain is produced in many countries and has many uses. It is used as a material for statues, other art objects, plates, dining sets and utensils; it is also used as a material in plumbing fixtures, electrical insulators, aero space industries and so on.
HOW THE HECK IS PORCELAIN CONNECTED TO OUR APPETITE OR FOOD INTAKE???
Well, porcelain is NOT directly connected to our appetite or food intake. The size and color of the porcelain (or any other material) plate is!
A bridge too far? Maybe…
But hear me out, anyway.
THE INFLUENCE OF COLOR AND SHAPE OF THE PLATE ON OUR FOOD INTAKE
The amount of food during a meal is determined by both internal psychological and external – environmental factors, such as the availability, cost and presentation of food, as well as the time of the day and social situation.
Nowadays, more and more importance is given to how restaurant dishes are visually presented. Our perception of food is affected by the sensory properties of the food itself, together with our assumptions about the food and other circumstantial factors. However, to date, not much emphasis has been placed on the effect of the appearance of the accessories on our perception of food.
A study was made, to test the extent to which the appearance properties of the plate influence the taste/flavor experiences of the food served on it. The scientists investigated the influence of the color (black or white) and shape of the plate on the perception of flavor intensity, sweetness, quality, and liking for identical strawberry mousse desserts.
They found that the color of the plate exerted a compelling influence on people’s perception of the food, the shape of the plate did not. When the mousse was offered on a white plate, it was perceived as significantly more intense and sweeter, and was also liked more. (5)
Another study found that participants tended to serve themselves more when the colors of their food and plates were similar; think, pasta with white sauce on a white plate. When their food contrasted with their plate color, over-serving didn’t happen. (6)
This proves the importance of the color of the plate on people’s perception of food. (5)
THE INFLUENCE OF THE SIZE OF THE PLATE ON FOOD INTAKE
How exactly does the size of a plate influence our impression of how much we’re eating?
A more recent paper explores this question with five studies that involved nearly 200 participants between the ages of 18 and 39. Asked to complete miscellaneous tasks, including serving themselves soup into bowls of different sizes, and serving themselves creamy pasta in either white or red bowls, the study participants misgauged due to what the research suggests may be attributed to a well-known optical illusion first described by Belgian philosopher Franz Delboeuf in 1865.
The Delboeuf illusion suggests, that we tend to misjudge the size of identical circles surrounded by circles of varying sizes – if a circle is surrounded by a large outer circle, we perceive it as smaller, but if that same circle is surrounded by a small outer circle, we perceive it as larger. So, the more blank space there is around the circle, the smaller it appears.
Now, imagine that optical illusion in the context of filling a bowl up with soup. The diameter of the amount of soup you’ve poured into the bowl will appear smaller if you’re using a very large bowl– the illusion could cause you to pour yourself more soup than you were planning to.
It should be noted, however, that it’s difficult to link perception of serving size and consumption to one single psychological process. Some separate researchers have said that linking plate size and portion size is oversimplified an explanation, and that other details, like the amount of food available or remaining in a serving dish, may have more of an influence on how much people serve themselves. (6)
HOW FEEDING IS INFLUENCED BY THE ARRANGEMENT OF FOOD ON A PLATE
Two studies investigated how the arrangement of food on a plate had an effect on people’s liking for the flavor of the food. Food presented in a neatly arranged presentation is liked more than the same food presented in a messy manner. A third study found that subjects expected to like the food in the neat presentations more than in the messy ones and would be willing to pay more for them.
They also indicated that the food in the neat presentations came from a higher quality restaurant, and that more care was taken with its preparation than the food in the messy presentations. It was found that neatness of the food presentation increases liking for the taste of the food by suggesting that the food was prepared with greater care. (7)
What does all of this mean?
It means that restaurants love you, that’s for sure. They also don’t help with the obesity or overeating problems. Over the past several decades, the size of what’s considered normal dinnerware has substantially increased. In the early 1980s, the diameter of a typical dinner plate was roughly 10 inches (25 cm). By the early 2000s, the diameter of typical dinner plate increased to 12 inches (30 cm) – an increase of 44%. This increase in plate sizes is occurring alongside many countries’ increasing rates of obesity. (6)
At home, consider serving your food on smaller salad size plates to see if it helps you reduce portion sizes. Or, you can simply try to restrict yourself from filling a large dish all the way up with food by measuring out your portions before you put what you’re planning to eat on a plate.
If you’re planning to gain weight, do the opposite – instead of using the small salad size plates, use big plates. (Of course – eat consistently and at least 3 times per day. More tips for gaining weight are coming in future posts). Also, use plates that are in similar color to the food that you’re planning to eat. For example, if your planning to eat green veggies, use a green plate; if you’re planning to eat pasta with a white sauce, use a white plate. You can buy a dish set with differently colored dishes in many stores. Arrange the food on the plate beautifully and it will increase your appetite. It’s worth to try.
We are so busy trying to catch up with everything that’s going on in our lives, that sometimes we forget to live. On many occasion we end up wasting time on nonsense. Time is precious, so if we’re planning to waste it, we could try wasting it creatively, especially when we prepare our meals. Instead of dumping something in a dish, and setting the timer of the microwave on 10 to 15 minutes, let’s try and cook something in those 10 or 15 minutes and present it to ourselves and/or our family beautifully. It will bring smile on everyone’s faces and just for a moment – time will be irrelevant.
See you next week.
- Li He: Chinese Ceramics: The New Standard Guide. Thames & Hudson, 1996.
- W.H. McNeill, J.H. Bentley, D. Christian, D. Levinson, J.R. McNeill, H. Roupp, J.P. Zinsser: World History, Volume 1. Berkshire Publishing Group LLC. (2005), page 133.
- R.E. Dunn: The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the Fourteenth Century. University of California Press (2004). Pages: 256-267.
- Wikipedia: Online Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porcelain (03.11.2016).
- B. Piqueras-Fiszman, J. Alcaide, E. Roura, C. Spence: Is it the plate or is it the food? Assessing the influence of the color (black or white) and shape of the plate on the perception of the food placed on it. Food Quality and Preference. 24.1.(2012): 205-208. Online Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0950329311001820 (03.11.2016).
- Online Source: http://www.builtlean.com/2013/07/04/plate-size/ (03.11.2016).
- D. A. Zellner, E. Siemers, V. Teran, R. Conroy, M. Lankford, A. Agrafiotis, L. Ambrose, P. Locher: Neatness counts. How plating affects liking for the taste of food. Appetite. 57.3.(2011): 642-648 Online Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666311005459 (03.11.2016).