To offer or serve up something. A way of presenting things in a clean and attractive way. Sometimes a special way of doing things, as with great or inherited plates. So a way of giving oneself to a person you like, honour or love.
In having a lot on ones plate, it means a lot to cope with or deal with, or get through. The plate with food on it can depict what is in front of you in life; what you have received or earned from life, what is yours.
May also symbolise needs, hungers, appetites. At one time a symbol of status, when only the rich afforded china or silver.
If food on plate: What one has a sense of ownership about; what one has received or hopes to receive from others, or from ones own efforts; what you have created or ‘cooked up’ for yourself and now face.
Communal plate: What is available to you but you may have to compete for or share – in work, relationship, life.
Empty plate: Ones needs; appetites; receptivity; perhaps status, as in the past only the rich had plates.
Example: ‘I am at a wedding at which we are being served a celebratory Chicken Lunch. Whilst my back is turned for a moment one of the other guests on the table who is female but whom I do not know removes my plate and substitutes it with a plate of food that doesn’t contain chicken. When I challenge this, I am told that there is no more. At this I rather petulantly decide to leave the wedding.’ Brian Y.
Brian uses a plate of food to represent the good things he feels are rightfully his in life; but his negative emotions in a relationship with a female rob him of this.
Idioms: Handed to one on a plate; on ones plate. See: food.