|I want to talk a bit about presentation – the aesthetics of making food look as appealing as possible when it’s served.
It’s a simple truth that even a not-so-great dish will benefit from being presented in the best possible light. I’m not even talking about things like carving little roses from radishes, or whacking up a bell pepper to look like a palm tree – heck, some community colleges and most culinary schools offer entire courses in food presentation – I mean just taking a little extra care to arrange your food in an attractive manner.
I remember that, during my last stretch in the county lockup, the cooks in the food line paid absolutely no attention to… wait – no – that wasn’t me. Well, no matter. Anyway, it’s easy to do, and can be done with just about everything you serve.
A long-standing tradition at my house, when our friend Pam comes to visit, is to make her and my wife Dana a “welcome cocktail” of something tropical, but in order to make it fancy, I make them inside cored pineapples, with a little paper umbrella on each, and colorful straws. It’s just an ordinary drink, but made more special by the little bit of extra effort.
Likewise, you can dress up a sandwich with those little frilly toothpicks, and it somehow seems to taste better.
Pay attention to colors – all food has color (except for that stuff they served on Thursdays at that jail), you can contrast them or group them, whatever looks best. And it should go without saying, when you’re plating food, keep the portions where they belong – in other words, don’t string the juice from the casserole across the plate. Keep a clean kitchen towel handy for quick touch-ups.
In my opinion, nothing adds to the appeal and “eatability” of a meal more than garnish – whether it be parsley, green onions, or other greens, or a bit of parmesan cheese, or even cracked black pepper. When deciding on a garnish, the sky’s the limit as to what you use.
I’ve been speaking mainly about presentation of plated meals, but just as important is buffet-style presentation. Again, use common sense – don’t force your guests to take the taco meat out of the frying pan you cooked it in, okay?
I know these suggestions are very general, and they’re meant to be. As I said, entire courses are taught on this subject, and one quickie blog entry won’t even scratch the surface. There are several good books (with illustrations) on the subject, check your favorite bookseller for them.