100 Essentials: One Bowl Eating, Revisited

{This series is based on my latest book, 100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home. In it, you’ll find the full list of my personal possessions, with detailed explanations and 100 color photos—including my 35-item kitchen, 35-item wardrobe, and more. I hope this series will start some interesting discussions on what you can’t live without!}

Thank you for all your wonderful Comments on the Great Plate Debate! It’s so much fun to trade ideas and experiences as we eliminate the excess and pare down to the essentials. I was particularly glad to hear that Corelle has been a safe, durable, and versatile choice for so many of you.

In addition to a plate, a bowl makes my list of 100 Essentials. If circumstances allowed, I could make this my only piece of dishware (hmm, 99 Essentials?).

In fact, long, long ago, I wrote on this blog about my desire to eat all my meals from a single bowl. All of my go-to foods fit easily in this simple vessel, and I felt it would make for a more meditative, appreciative dining experience.

Seven years later, I feel the same way—yet still haven’t achieved that goal. What happened? Life got in the way.

We returned from our overseas sojourn, and settled down (somewhat) to have a child. Back among friends and family, we entertained more often. We had a daughter, who, as she grew into a toddler, did not like her constituent foods to be mixed together. It’s hard to keep the fish from touching the rice from touching the veggies when you’re eating out of a bowl. :)

As she’s grown, the co-mingling of food has become more acceptable. She loves a good noodle bowl, adores paella, and no longer insists that her pasta stand alone (yay!).

The notion of one bowl eating has returned to my consciousness. I’m slowly and subtly introducing more such dishes into our menu. I won’t be tossing the plates anytime soon, but am curious to see how much we can do with a bowl.

I’ve been exploring the internet for ideas and recipes, and am thrilled to see so many new cookbooks on one bowl eating:

Clean Bowls, Great Bowls, Whole Bowls, Nourish Bowls—so much potential deliciousness! I’m making my way through their reviews, to see which best suit my needs. In particular, I like cookbooks that focus on basic cooking techniques, and don’t require the use of food processors, blenders, and other specialty appliances.

And even though I don’t always eat vegan, I tend to cook vegan; we’re not big meat eaters, and the little one doesn’t like eggs, or anything creamy or cheesy. Now if some minimalist chef would write Unplugged One Bowl Mostly Vegan Meals, that would be awesome.

On that note, I sincerely believe that embracing minimalism can help us become healthier people. The more mindful we are about our possessions, the more mindful we become about the behaviors and routines surrounding those possessions—in this case, what we put into our bodies.

As for the bowl itself—I never buy sets, so my family’s current collection is a hodgepodge of glass and ceramic, just like our plates. After the Comments on my last post, however, I’m newly intrigued by bone china and bamboo, and intend to explore these options the next time we need a replacement.

So, have any of you adopted (or practiced) one bowl eating since we last discussed it? Please share your experiences, favorite recipes, or favorite bowl with us in the Comments!

27 comments to 100 Essentials: One Bowl Eating, Revisited

  • Jamie

    We have a set of “low bowls” from Crate and Barrel that we could use for just about anything. One of my boys doesn’t like his food touching and these allow for that – yet they can still be used for soup, salad, anything! We love them.

    I am now going through your 100 essentials for the second time – its incredible! I love your writing style and the pictures are so useful!!

    I am curious to know if you renovated your kitchen and what it looks like – I am trying to convince my husband to take down two sets of our upper cabinets because they are basically empty – he is not on board yet! We will see what the next year brings….

  • Jamie

    I also forgot to mention, we love recipes from Minimalist Baker! Vegan, less than 10 ingredients, delicious.

  • Hello again Francine,
    Regarding one bowl, we as Asian have the advantage. We use to eat mostly all menu in one plate/bowl. I think, we all enjoy the enriching experience of cooking & gathering, so dont push yourself too hard on this… Cheers.

  • Margie

    Have you ever paged through Sprouted Kitchen’s cookbook, Bowl and Spoon? I checked it out from our library and enjoyed several of the recipes.

    http://www.sproutedkitchen.com/home/2015/3/11/bowl-spoon.html Table of contents and sample recipes here.

  • Jess

    I also really like “Three Bowls” — a cookbook from a zen monastery. Perhaps not as minimalist when it comes to dishware, but definitely in the spirit:


  • Marilyn Hayes

    Scott Nearing chose to eat from one wooden bowl from mid-life on… to nearly 100. Apparently, his first wife used dishes from the Victorian era, so when he left her in the 20’s? – 30’s, he chose to eat more simply. He and Helen had a large garden, first in Vermont, then at Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine. They had a garden, including a green house, and ate vegetarian, if not vegan. She did a cookbook, and there are 4-5 books written by them about their lives and conscious living. I visited there in 2008, saw the wooden bowl, green house, books, out house, etc. It’s open to visitors within limits. They’ve been a real inspiration to me.

  • Patrice

    Haha! I thought I was unique but after reading this post I realize I am not the only one who loves eating from bowls.

    Open my cupboard and I have salad bowls, soup bowls, cereal bowls, and a few other odds and ends of different sizes of bowls. I bought all of them over time from the thrift stores, always in sets of 4.

    I gave up sets of dinnerware a long time ago, and started collecting white dishes, pieces at a time. I do have 6 plates, (in case I have dinner guests,) but find myself eating all my meals out of bowls, and this started before I became a vegan.

    I find I simply have no need for a dinner plate personally. Sometimes I feel guilty having so many different kinds of bowls, especially since I am trying to downsize and work toward minimalism, but alas, I am simply loving my many choices of bowls.

  • We have been slowly furnishing a little holiday home and so far we have no table (I am interested to see if we can live comfortably without a table) and using bowls for our meals has been very useful, food is much less likely to slide out of a bowl when eating off a tray on your lap! Just another aspect I thought I would mention….. I like our bowls, they are quite flat on the bottom so it makes it easier to serve food.

  • Lorrie

    My husband does seem to enjoy a plate, but the rest of us eat out of what was described as low bowls above. I think they are similar to pasta bowls of years ago. Anyway, you can eat anything out of them from soups, stews, salads, to more traditional meals etc. I also find the size and shape handy for meal prep!

  • Grace

    I too have a preference for bowls. Like Lorrie my favorite shape is a pasta bowl shape because it functions as a plate and a bowl. However, I am fortunate in that my brother is a potter and I love the feel of the stoneware cradled in my hands. They remind me of the Buddhist begging bowls, that contain the idea of faith in generosity, and abundance. These smaller bowls also help with portion control. My pantry has been minimized to two or three grains, and two or three dried beans. With these I can just top with veggies most nights, and occasional egg or meat. When I do prepare something more complex it for fun or a special occasion. Saves time and money while reducing waste.

  • Tania

    I loved this! Loved all the comments as well! I do like eating out of a bowl as well (with chopsticks when it makes sense). My BF is a potter and he made a beautiful bowl for me that I requested with a place to rest chopsticks and easy to hold in my smaller than average hands. It brings me such joy each time I use it. I think if we kept track of which dishware we were using (similar to someone tracking which clothing they were wearing), we would find the 10% rule occurring (we are likely only using a small portion of what we own – for those of us who have not purged our china cabinets yet).

  • Jody

    I was fortunate to find a set of 8 brand new Corelle winter white large dishes at Goodwill last month. Well, I loved the storage factor so much that I ordered some matching pieces, just to try them out. Several bowls, plates and serving pieces.

    In particular, I ordered 8 of the large shallow pasta bowls and a couple of the 1 quart and 2 quart bowls. Surprisingly, my family for the last month has been grabbing those 3 bowls and they have not used the plates once. Very interesting experiment! I may be getting rid of all my plates! My daughter said that the big bowls full of popcorn maker her really happy! lol

  • Each year our local food bank holds a fundraiser called “Empty Bowls” (isn’t that an evocative name?). They sell unique ceramic bowls made and donated by local artists/potters. Each bowl also comes with a coupon for a bowl of soup at several restaurants.

    I have actually never attended this event–but my mother goes every year, and several of my favorite bowls were gifted to us after this event. I love using them.

  • Jasharma

    Agrees with Jody about the pasta bowls. We have been using Corelle dinnerware at our home for nearly 35 years. Our 11 year old granddaughter’s favorite “plate” is the 8″ individual pasta bowl which she lovingly refers to as ‘the fancy plates’ because they have a rim around them which makes them great for not only eating soup but also meals, desserts, sandwiches, etc. If I was going to only use 1 this would be it but there are times my husband prefers a regular plate so these are the 2 we use.

  • I love this idea! Bowls are so simple, pretty, and functional. A minimalist’s dream. HeatherLiz,the “Empty Bowls” fundraising idea is terrific!

  • I eat out of a bowl all winter … it’s soup season!

  • It takes a while to get used to but soon you’ll be craving to eat from a bowl. I love how the food mixes. In Asian countries, we even mix food on purpose.

  • Randall

    I have a 24 oz bowl from Biobu which I love. Like you not vegan but eat mostly so so this bowl works well for what I tend to eat. Use it daily. Great series and love the new book. I found myself taking a new look at my things. If I need something smaller I will use one of my Pyrex storage bowls (2 cup size)

  • Barbara

    Love this post and all the comments! I eat from a bowl almost daily and love mixing everything together. I’ve been using a big plastic bowl, but you’ve all inspired me to find some Corelle or ceramic bowls to use. My tax refund will soon be here and I can’t wait to shop for some new bowls!

  • Sara

    We have a motley collection of bowls (like our other dishes as well) and often eat food that’s nice and easy to eat using a bowl. We do use plates too, but all of us love our bowls of different colors, sizes and shapes. :) I guess it’s also because it’s simply fun to eat out of a bowl, I don’t know why that is so…

    Personally I could make do with two or three bowls (for a little variety) and not have plates at all, but that would be easier if I were single and I rather like my family. :D

    All sorts of mixed dishes like stews and soups are good, but I don’t mind mixing separate ingredients in one bowl either.

  • I saw an ad for microwave ready pre cooked rice. I was appalled. Here is a food that I can buy for about 50 cents a pound and add a little fish, eggs, some vegetables and seasonings and feed my family and they’ve made it an expensive convenience food. Like instant oatmeal, which I buy in a big box for a couple of dollars and cook. Making it single serve just adds to the price. I don’t need a freezer because I have dried beans, noodles, rice and some cans of broth in the house.

  • Kelly

    There’s a great restaurant called Bowl of Good in Harrisonburg Va that’s connected to a great shop called Artisans Hope (all kinds of great fair trade items.). It shares a parking lot with an awesome thrift store that’s run by the Mennonite Central Committee. Their food is wonderful and I’ve often wished they would put out a cook book. But then I wouldn’t have an excuse to go there. Dishes are from all over the world.

  • Shan

    A bowl also keeps your food warmer longer.

  • Tina

    I will never get down to 100 items. However,I am trying to get to zero waste. If I could find a use for used cat litter, I’d have the problem solved. What I can’t recycle, we reuse. Plastic ziplock bags, bottle caps, torn fabric and more. Mylar packaging for needed medicine is turned into sparkly decorations.

  • Caterina

    I love your 100 essentials book!! Very inspiring.

    Due to potential lead and cadmium issues (and I’m tired of patterned dishes) I replaced all my dishes with white dishes from France that are lead and cadmium free. Luckily I found them at an outlet. I bought only what I’ll use on a regular basis. Instead of dinner plates I bought 4 pasta bowls. I serve all my meals in these bowls. I also have 4 salad plates and 4 coffee bowls (in France we drink our coffee from bowls) which can also be used for soup, ice cream, fruit whatever. That’s all I really need. Out went the crystal and I have 4 US made glasses.

    Your book inspired me that I don’t need much to serve good wholesome meals to my guests.

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