TheGrio’s guide to fixing a low vibrational Thanksgiving plate

OPINION: Get ready to take your meal’s vibrational frequency to the next level with these Thanksgiving hacks from one of America’s foremost plate-fixing scholars.

U.S troops Celebrate Thanksgiving in Afghanistan
A solider displays his huge plate of food as the U.S military get served a special Thanksgiving meal at the Bagram military base in Bagram, Afghanistan November 23, 2006. (photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images) ()
A solider displays his huge plate of food as the U.S military get served a special Thanksgiving meal at the Bagram military base in Bagram, Afghanistan November 23, 2006. (photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio

It’s plate season!

Anyone who understands that hot sauce is an anointing oil for food also understands the importance of plates. A simple Google search reveals previous debates on the who, what, when, where and why of fixing plates. So it was no surprise that social media influencer Stormy Wellington set off a firestorm when she introduced the world to the concept of “low vibrational plates.”  

As I watched this debate consume Black Twitter, I knew I had to step in.

Look, the last thing I want is to sound like an elitist who knows more than everyone else, but as someone who has fixed and served more plates than 99.5 percent of the population, my credentials speak for themselves. Growing up in a family of soul food restauranteurs and caterers has armed me with the necessary education and experience to speak on this subject with some expertise. 

Not only am I a plate thought leader, but I am also actually certified in Thanksgivinomics. For most people, Turkey day is an annual holiday, but my family averages about six to 12 Thanksgivings a year. I was a grown man before I realized Thanksgiving was a federally recognized holiday. Among the Harriots, “a Thanksgiving” is an activity like a food-centric “kickback” or an inside-the-house cookout. Every birthday, anniversary and graduation serve as an opportunity for my aunts to host a dinner with fellow churchgoers, unofficial uncles and common-law cousins. I still get texts from my aunt Jannie announcing: “We’re having a Thanksgiving on March 20 at Marvell’s house.”

To show my appreciation for African-American plate culture, I wanted to help end many of the debates that have embroiled Black Twitter by sharing this handy reference guide that was originally a dissertation titled: Critical Plate Theory: The Vibrational Frequencies of Food Served with a Big Spoon. However, after Harvard, Le Cordon Bleu and Trump University rejected my application for a Ph.D. in plate technology, I decided to take my research to the people. 

Here is theGrio’s definitive guide to low vibrational plates.

What is a plate?

For people who don’t use Lawry’s, a plate is a serving dish for food. But in Black America, a plate is the actual food. In fact, Black plates aren’t often served on actual plates. I’ve had plates served in bowls, in styrofoam containers and in purses (at the movies, of course). In fact, plates are a vital part of the African-American economy. Every Black neighborhood has a woman who sells plates. The underground plate market is the third-most common form of Black entrepreneurship (after kitchen beautician and weed man). Plate peddlers can be found at community festivals, in the back of nightclubs and at every HBCU homecoming.

To be clear, all meals are not plates, and not all plates are meals. Two pieces of fish cannot be considered a plate unless it comes with fries and a piece of “light bread” that must be placed under the chicken. Conversely, an entire dinner from a fancy seafood restaurant is technically not a plate if more than two people touched it before you. That’s because plates are not served, they are “fixed.”

What is a low vibrational plate?

The level of a plate’s vibration is inversely related to its deliciousness. Although it might sound oxymoronic, low vibrational plates are the best kind, while high vibrational plates are actually the least desirable. Here are some common indicators that will help you determine the level of your plate’s frequency.

  • High vibrational plates: These plates are actually low-quality meals eaten by people who don’t deserve the best things in life. The most common indicator of a high vibrational plate is that it is served on the “good plates.” Often, the food doesn’t touch, which is preferred by some people. Most high vibrational plate eaters show up to Thanksgiving with store-bought dishes. These plates can also be identified by a lack of seasoning and the absence of intermingled juices because people who prefer high vibrational plates are often bougie, segregationists or white.
  • Mid-vibrational plates: Most mid-vibrational plates are mistakes. If a person prefers low vibrational meals but shows up late to Thanksgiving, they could get a second-tier macaroni that elevates the frequency of their plate. Many consumers of medium vibration plates are vegans who can’t eat gravy or the greens seasoned with ham hocks, so their plates always look a little dry. Also, people who are a little too into fitness and newly converted Muslims who refer to pork as swine actually prefer their plate to pulsate at a run-of-the-mill rhythm.
  • Low vibrational plates: Mostly served on paper goods, this is the plate that MLK dreamed about. On a high vibrational plate, the chicken still sweltering with the hot grease of oppression is transformed into an oasis of freedom and juiciness. It’s when macaroni is not judged by the color of the edges, but by the content of its cheeses. Unlike segregated high vibrational plates, these plates are integrated. You can see the little pieces of cornbread sitting next to turkey gravy while holding hands with candy yams. And when you get a low vibrational plate, you will be able to join hands when the person saying grace is finished praying and singing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Eat at last….Thank God almighty, we eating at last!”

Who fixes plates?

God’s children.

According to the Black Leadership Academy for Cookouts, Kickbacks, Feasts and Other Low-Key Shindigs (BLACKFOLKS), 47 percent of all plates are made by people with the Holy Ghost. (Contrary to popular belief, people who have the anointing are less likely to give you an extra serving because God blesses the just and the unjust alike.)  Thirty-five percent of plates are fixed by family members or spouses while 31 percent are self-fixed. And if anyone asks why those numbers add up to more than 100 percent, then one thing is clear:

You don’t have the Holy Ghost.

What is the plate protocol?

Even though each event varies, there is a recognized universal hierarchy to the fixing of plates. 

First-tier plate-fixers are the elderly, candy ladies, invited guests of honor, the person who said grace and anyone who has a reserved front-row seat at a local church (including pulpits and church organists). The second tier includes retired coaches, parents of grown children, public school principals, tree-shade mechanics and the person whose truck was used to bring the folding chairs. The next level includes invited white people, grown people who have steady jobs, aunts, uncles and anyone who is known by the name “coach” or “deacon.” The last level is just kids, good-for-nothing family members, the one person who no one knows and the group of cousins who “went for a walk around the block real quick.”

We will not even get into whether a woman should fix her man’s plate because that is a personal choice. I will just say that studies show men who wait for their partners to fix their meals are 34 percent more likely to receive mid-vibrational plates. 

How do you make a low vibrational plate?

Now we come to the important part.

The biggest mistake most people make is not having a plan of attack. You don’t just go into the kitchen and start putting food on a plate. That’s why amateurs end up with so much plate vibration. 

The second mistake people make is going for the turkey first. That’s high-vibration stuff. Vibratory plate scholars have concluded that the piece of turkey (which is, of course, the flat of the turkey wing or the thigh meat) is only marginally better than the worst piece of turkey (the breast). The difference between the two can easily be fixed with a little gravy or some yam juice. Let them fight for the turkey while you go for the important stuff.

And no, the macaroni & cheese is not that important. If you were raised around low-vibration meal preparers, Thanksgiving macaroni should be approved by a sanctioning committee of elders that’s chaired by the aunt with the most upper-arm meat. 

I know this sounds wrong, but your first priority should be dessert. Dessert is the most limited dish at all Thanksgivings, and your dessert selection shouldn’t be dependent on your eating speed. This is why the first thing you should fix at any Thanksgiving is sweet potato pie. Next, get some peach cobbler crust — and notice I said crust. It’s that edge crust that soaked up the peach syrup that you want. Take your pie, your cobbler and a piece of pound cake and wrap it up.

Next, you want to build a base for your plate by concentrating on the juices. Juices are very important at Thanksgiving. Some people, myself included, like yam juice as a substrate while others prefer collard green pot liquor as a juice base. After you build up your juice-based foundation, you want to go to your macaroni. By now, enough of the first pan of macaroni has been eaten to buss open a second pan, which makes ANY PART of the macaroni & cheese available to you. (And yes, you “buss open” macaroni & cheese instead of spooning it. Whether you like the edges or the creamy middle is not important because you now have 1.25 macaronis available from which you can choose. Vegetables are also a foundation-level ingredient because blackeye peas or cabbage also provide ancillary juiciness.

Now is the time for meats. 

Meats go on the second level. Put your fried chicken wing on top of the macaroni so that the crispiness shall not be impeded by your juice base. Add whatever meat you desire. Next comes the dressing. Dressing can go on top of any juice producer because it only adds flavor. Be careful not to put your gravy on yet. 

Now is the time for generosity. You can add on the stuff that you just want a “lil bit of” to make your family members feel good. Take a piece of Aunt Sheila’s vegetarian meatloaf because she will be sad if no one touches it. Even if it tastes like seatbelt buckles, tell her you like it, and you’ll be her favorite niece/nephew for an entire generation. Now that you have these high vibrational items on your plate, you have to decrease their vibrations. Luckily, you have access to one of the greatest vibration reducers of all time — gravy.

Gravy is to Thanksgiving what Black people are to Twitter — it just makes it better. 

Now comes your sop layer. This is when you add the cornbread, biscuit or dinner roll that you will use to sop up your gravy and juice. 

Now here is the IMPORTANT part:

Take that plate into the kitchen, take a piece of aluminum foil, wrap up the plate, excuse yourself and place this plate on the back seat of your car. Throw a jacket over it and return to the house. Never put your leftover plate in the refrigerator because someone will eat it. Leaving an unattended plate around is asking for trouble. Even if you use the traditional African-American vibration suppressant — covering a plate with another plate and then wrapped in aluminum foil — every family has a “plate bloodhound” that is born with the ability to sense the vibration of a plate.

Next, you return to the kitchen. By now, a lot of the food is gone, but you should still fix yourself a very skimpy plate. However, you shouldn’t eat it. Just walk around holding it. Ask everyone if they’re OK. Play with your little nieces. Offer to hold your cousin’s baby while she eats. If anyone asks you why you’re not hungry, say: “I just wanted to let everyone else eat first. You know how much I love my family. I’m sure I’ll be OK.”

And here’s what will happen:

I guarantee one of the high-ranking members of the macaroni committee will pull you aside and tell you where she hid an extra pan of macaroni. Uncle Junebug will hand you a piece of fried chicken straight out of the grease. Your grandmama will give you a whole pie that she set aside for the next usher board meeting.

Over the next few days, while everyone else is eating second-level macaroni and soggy peach cobbler, you will be sitting home eating first-round draft desserts and nibbling on one of the lowest vibrating plates in Thanksgiving history. 

Congratulations! You just won Thanksgiving.

You’re welcome.

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2023.

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