Salads should always be served on plates large enough to gracefully accommodate the assembled ingredients.
I remember poking nervously at a delicious salad in the Drake Hotel in Chicago because the plate was so tiny the feet of the lettuce leaves, so to speak, were dangling over the edge, creating on the diner’s part a certain Sisyphean frustration while the traffic sloshed by on Upper Michigan Ave. Of course that was thirty years ago, these days margins are generally treated with respect, the great gods of trend-setting have shot us into the era of plates (or multi-purpose bowls for that matter, and usually large ones) as painter’s canvas.
The chances are now exceedingly good your salad, stew or crisp will be counterpointed with micro-acres of “negative space” worthy of one of 57th Street’s best: for every forest of food there will be a circling meadow of s-p-a-c-e to keep the gustatory attraction du jour in focus. Or, to change the image, there’ll be room for tasty rubble tumbling from a nervous Vesuvius of an “architectural” plat du jour deconstructing under your fork: I’m reminded of a recently enjoyed timbale of fresh anchovies that unrolled upon contact with cutlery as if they were descending a Guggenheim Museum ramp.
And this principle of centripetal styling may easily be applied at home where it’s so much fun to play Restaurant, the grownup equivalent of the classic lemonade stand or lining up Mom’s cans of tuna and Campbell’s soup as we did at the age of six and charging for them too.