We pretty much use paper plates when we have get-togethers around here, especially if we are going to be outdoors. If you are like me, paper plates are the proverbial go-to because you don’t want to stand around doing dishes all night after playing hostess. Let’s face it, that whole doing the dishes thing can be a real deterrent if you are going to feed your family plus have any more than 2 guests. I have used every kind of paper or plastic plate known to man. But sometimes, I want to do something a little more than just the usual paper plate. Just a little something out of the ordinary to jazz things up a bit. Something to make a gathering a little special, but not add anything to my post-party clean-up.
That’s how the idea for these market-style mats was born. They are made from the same brown craft paper I use to make the table runner for a shrimp boil. And it’s basically the same concept; however, instead of serving from the paper, we use a paper place mat as our “plate.”
This idea is not completely new. When I lived in Texas, we would often be served barbecue on a piece white butcher paper instead of a plate. (Hold on to your hats, east of the Mississipians. Not all barbecue is served wet. Texas barbecue consists mostly of beef brisket or ribs, and the meat is served with the sauce on the side if there is sauce at all.) This butcher paper style of service is called market-style and stems from central Texas where barbecue has its roots in German meat markets and butcher shops.
For my market-style mats, I decided to give the traditional market-style butcher paper service a makeover so it would have more of the look and feel of a real place setting. As a result, it can be used for just about anything that you want to serve at your next cookout or picnic!
I enlisted the help of my 15-year-old when making these. I like to involve her when preparing for get-togethers. She learns a variety skills by helping, practices problem solving, and all the while a little bit of Southern hospitality gets passed on to the next generation.
- butcher or craft paper
- bowl and plate
- place mat
Place an old place mat on the craft paper so you can trace for proper shape and size. If you would rather measure out the dimensions, my paper market-style mats ended up being 14″x 19″, the same size as a standard place mat. After tracing the outline with a pencil, cut it out.
Next, make the “plate” on your mat. I used an actual plate for this so that I would have an actual plate-sized eating area. Place the plate upside down in the center of the mat and trace with a sharpie.
To make the inner circle of the mat’s “plate,” I used a bowl whose circumference was about 1″ smaller than the outside of my “plate.” Placing the bowl upside down in the center, I traced with the sharpie again.
I noticed after I finished tracing that there was some sharpie on the edges of the plate and bowl I used. If this happens to you too, it’s nothing that a little magic eraser won’t fix.
Now this is where the fun part comes in. It’s time to personalize! I personalized mine for Labor Day, but anything goes. What about birthday wishes? Or a Bible verse? Each guest could have an individualized sentiment? Kids could decorate their own? Maybe you could include the menu? Or the evening’s order of events? You can hand draw your script, use a stencil, or stamp it on. The possibilities for making this your own are endless.
You do have to consider your menu when using these, however. They work best with dry items like burgers, fries, hot dogs, chips, cake– things you would encounter in a market. I wouldn’t serve beans, potato salad or anything that might soak through the paper unless I served those in little cups on the side. So think about what your menu will allow and make adjustments where necessary.
I am really loving this little idea right now. The mats give any gathering that market-style look and feel while providing quick and easy clean up! It also gives your get-together a personalized touch that is sure to spark some fun conversation among your guests as they look around at what you have printed on the mats. This is so much better than the usual paper plate!
Tips of the trade:
- When you cut paper from a roll, it often wants to stay rolled up. You can iron your cut paper on a low to medium setting to flatten it out.
- If you are using these mats outdoors and there is a breeze, use a little double-sided tape to keep the mats firmly in place.
Barbecue photo courtesy of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX. Louie Mueller Barbecue was the winner of the 2006 James Beard Award for American Classics. You can check out them out at www.louiemuellerbarbecue.com.