Monkey dish

Drew Danielson drew.danielson at CMU.EDU
Fri Aug 17 12:33:11 UTC 2001

Among the cooks and waitrons of State College, PA (c. 1990) a 'monkey
dish' or 'monkey bowl' was a small, 'conical' bowl similar in shape to a
typical soup bowl, but with a capacity of only about 4 oz.  They were
made of the same type of ceramic as the other dishes used by the
restaurants.  We didn't use the term to refer to the cylindrical bowls
or bowls made of special material, just these miniature replicas of
larger bowls.  They were most often used to serve small side dishes or
as containers to nuke prepared ingredients for dishes (like steak
salads) in which some of the ingredients were hot and some were cold.

"Douglas G. Wilson" wrote:
> >Is anyone familiar with the expression 'monkey dish' (apparently used to
> >refer to a dish or platter used for appetizers) who might have some
> >information on its etymology?  I've consulted a variety of dictionaries,
> >including the OED and DARE, to no avail.
> I couldn't find anything authoritative.
> Here's a conjecture. There is a small bowl called a ramekin; here are some
> pictures of ramekins:
> Usually these are almost cylindrical. The word "ramekin" is more obscure
> than the item to which it refers. So the small cylindrical bowl might have
> been called a "monkey dish" -- named after the cylindrical cap used as a
> begging bowl by an organ-grinder's monkey in a cartoon. Then the expression
> might have been generalized to mean "small bowl" in restaurant jargon,
> since ramekins are often used about the same as other small bowls (and in
> fact "ramekin" sometimes is used for those other small dishes too).
> -- Doug Wilson

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