My husband jokes with me about what have come to be known as “beige” meals. You know the ones: grilled chicken, brown rice, and steamed cauliflower. While it’s a balanced meal, all things considered, it also lacks color. And for some reason, that makes a difference.
On the other end, we laugh about the gratuitous garnish: the bit of kale, sprig of parsley, or slice of orange that a restaurant adds to the plate as a decorating accent. Though, I have been known to chew on a bit of parsley as a breath freshener after a particularly spicy or garlicky meal, these garnish serve no purpose other than to add color to the plate.
Appeal to all the senses.
While I am certainly no great food stylist or food photographer or gourmet cook, it does matter to me what the plate looks like when I dish things up. I like to serve a pretty plate. In fact, I think if all our senses are being positively stimulated at dinner, we will enjoy it more.
- Is the conversation animated, yet peaceful?
- Are the chairs comfortable and is there enough elbow room at the table?
- Are there good smells floating about the room?
- Does the food have flavor?
- Is the plate pretty?
Eating a meal together is not just nourishment for our bodies; a pleasant meal can feed our hearts and minds.
Make the plate pretty.
There are a number of ways to make a pretty plate.
1. Do you like your dishes?
The dishes you serve meals on matter. Are they too big? Too small? Too fragile? Are your dishes pretty?
Recently, I decided that I didn’t love the extensive set of china my mother-in-law gave us. Since many of the 17+ place settings were sitting in boxes in the garage, I realized that someone else would probably like to use them, especially since they are an expensive Mikasa pattern. Not only do I clear room in storage and bless someone else with a great deal, I also get an opportunity to choose simple, functional plates that we will actually use.
2. Do you vary the color of your menu?
Beige meals aside, I do like to vary the color on the plate. Green salads dotted with tomatoes, lemon and lime wedges aside grilled fish, salsa and sour cream mounded on nachos. These foods add flavor to the meal as well as make the plate more pleasing to the eye.
3. Are the textures varied?
Watching Chopped has helped me be more mindful of the textures I’m putting on the plate. The judges often comment when they like the crunchy topping on a custard or the smooth sauce under a grilled chicken breast. Not only do textures vary the taste experience, but they also enhance the appearance of the dish. Buttery avocado, crisp greens, juicy tomatoes — this kind of variety makes a plate more interesting to eat — and to look at.
Simple Steps to a Prettier Plate
You don’t need to be a gourmet cook, a fabulous food stylist, or a millionaire to present a pretty plate. A few little extras make all the difference in the world.
- Take a little extra time to chop a tomato or wedge a lemon.
- Look for sale produce that will add color to your meal.
- Spoon sour cream into a sandwich bag and cut off the tip. Drizzling sour cream makes it prettier — and helps you use less.
- Grate some fresh Parmesan to sprinkle over a plate of spaghetti.
- Fan out the slices of meat on a plate.
- Slice the grilled chicken breast prior to placing it on a salad.
- Serve some elements, like chips, on the side so they don’t get soggy.
Pretty is as pretty does.
Remember that it can be the most beautiful meal in the world, but if it’s not nourishing or tasty, you’ve defeated its purpose. But, adding a little style to the meal can make the meal more enjoyable. And that’s always a good thing.
Does it matter to you what your meal looks like?
|A foodie at heart, Jessica Fisher has learned to reconcile a tight budget with her love for great food. As a busy mom of six voracious eaters, she regularly shares healthy, delicious and budget-friendly recipes at GoodCheapEats. She also writes at her parenting blog, LifeasMOM.|