Back in May of this year, in England, thousands of people would have headed to their nearest leading newsagent clutching £3.99 in their hand. They would have exchanged this money for a copy of their favourite publication, Australia and New Zealand magazine.
Of those thousands of people, some of them, perhaps half a dozen, or two or three, well, maybe one one of them, would thumb through that magazine until they got to their favourite part, my contribution, known as ‘Expat Diary’.
What is very likely though is that you are not that person. In all probability, that person does not exist. The article does exist though, I remember writing it, and just to prove it, here’s a reprint of it, for you, for free. It’s called…
Bring a plate
When I lived in England, ‘bring a plate’ wasn’t a thing I was aware of. Maybe I just hadn’t heard of it, or maybe it wasn’t a thing then but it is now, so I decided to check. I navigated my way to Google and punched in the words ‘bring a plate’ with the UK selected as the country.
Very high in the search results was a Facebook page with the same name, so I checked it out. It had one post, one picture and the last entry was from December 2012.
Okay, undeterred, I noticed top of the results was a Jamie Oliver forum. Ah, he’s a Brit; let’s see what he has to say about it. Turned out most of the contributors to that thread were from Australia. By the time I got to the seventh result in this search, the title was talking about ‘Useful Phrases for New Zealand’.
It’s confirmed then; bring a plate wasn’t and still isn’t a British thing of any note.
So then I did a second search for ‘bring a plate’ selecting Australia as the country and this revealed an almost never-ending list of recipes and ideas. ‘7 ideas’ was pipped by ‘11 tasty recipes’ which in turn was outdone by ‘30 simple ideas’ and all of them were crushed by the ’50 bring a plate ideas’ listing.
That’s just page 1.
It is even listed by the University of Queensland as an ‘Australian custom’.
Yes, bring a plate is an Aussie thing, but what does it mean? According to the Australian National University’s ‘Meanings and origins of Australian words and idioms’ it is ‘An invitation to bring a plate of food to share at a social gathering or fundraiser.’ As you can see, a plate on its own just won’t cut it.
They go on to say that in days gone by the request would often be ‘ladies a plate, sometimes followed by gentlemen a donation.’ These days, most gentlemen, or blokes as we now call them, fully understand that the donation is alcohol. As you probably know, many Australians spend a lot of time in their back gardens during the summer throwing prawns on the barbie.
Inviting their friends round to join them in that is probably more popular here than going to the pub. I thought I would miss my local when I moved to Australia, instead though, I’ve grown to really enjoy the Aussie way. It’s cheaper, more laid-back, the kids love it and it very rarely ends in a punch-up, depending on your friends of course.
The bring a plate idea, dare I say, is the icing on the cake. It certainly takes the strain off the hosts to provide all the food. But what kind of food should you bring?
This is easy; there are two categories, savoury and sweet. Savoury could be mini pizzas, spring rolls or chicken wings, for example.
Buy a box of Yum Cha from Aldi, 26 savoury Chinese starter pieces and follow the instruction on the box. Feeling lazy? Buy a box of Maltesers and put them on a plate. See how much fun this is? When you’re done, take the plate home.
Bring a plate; it’s the Aussie way.