Does pretty taste better?

July 24, 2014


family+dinnerIf someone had suggested to my mother that culinary presentation mattered, she’d have had no idea what they were talking about.

The table was set and the meal put on the table. What else was there?

Apparently, more. Plating techniques.

french_foodSomething like this at a home dinner table would’ve made her laugh.

The topic “How to present food on a plate” would’ve generated a look of…confusion.

But it’s true that we taste things first with our eyes.

I’m a big fan of reality cooking shows like Hell’s Kitchen, where I’ve learned not only kitchen tips, but how to present food on a plate.

Here’s what I’ve noticed:

☛  Colorful vegetables against a white plate makes a great meal presentation.

☛  Simplicity rules.

☛  So does the rule of three. Or five.  No even numbers of things.

☛  A focal point on the plate is key. Usually the meat or main dish.

☛  You don’t want it to look “too done up.”  Try for that “hey, I just threw a few caramelized Brussels sprouts near the  meat” look.

☛  Seared meat not only tastes great but looks great on a plate.

☛  Wipe up the plate edges (no spilled gravy!).

cupcake+de+banana+com+creme+azêdoI love cupcakes, regardless of how they look. But then:

Pink cupcakeThere’s THIS.

Which looks so much more appealing.


This post didn’t start out to be tips on how to present food on a plate.

Here is where I was really going–a post about presentation in general.

my owlThis tiny little owl totem (ok, ok so I bought one from Etsy after my shaman workshop) is adorable. But the Etsy artisan took time to package it like this:

pkgingHow hard was it, really? A small brown box with an owl stamp, tied in a plain string bow. But that little touch made me smile.

I kept the artist’s card because I might just buy from her again.

And as long as we’re discussing “pretty”:

happy girsl prettyJust thought I’d make sure you knew where I stood on this. I’m not entirely superficial.

30 comments on “Does pretty taste better?
  1. Puneet Kumar says:

    Woww! I completely agree: ” … it’s true that we taste things first with our eyes.” carol I am feeling hungry again. I want to eat this cake crowned up with cream….rsrsr 🙂

  2. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    Making pretty gets my creative ya-yas out. I do like making pretty.

  3. wendy says:

    I fear I might be more like your mother – a year ago, my son was serving us dinner. In the kitchen, he asked me to put the carrots to the right of the meat, which was centred *just so* on the plate. I made a mistake and put one to the left and got told off for not understanding how important presentation was.
    Lesson learned!

  4. Presentation is everything… sometimes. THIS made me chuckle: “Try for that “hey, I just threw a few caramelized Brussels sprouts near the meat” look.” HA! Yeah, that, as we all caramelize our Brussels sprouts, right. 😀

    I do like pretty. I do like REAL even more.

  5. Barbara says:

    We eat with all our senses, don’t we? I absolutely think pretty tastes better. Love the little extras the Etsy shop owner took. I recently ordered some paper straws from an Etsy shop – big polka dots in bright colors – and they came in such a fun way – with tons of bright colored packing straw and a sweet as sugar business card inside. And you’re right – those little touches make the opening special. And I love your owl totem, BTW.

    And your happy girls are the prettiest. Much better than the other way around kind of thinking.

  6. Ruth Curran says:

    It is like the little extras you put in your writing, Carol That “this is stuff is a piece of me” touch that you put in everything (many times in parentheses like the above reason you got the owl and where she came from) that keeps me coming back to read more. I appreciate the fact that I know I am reading Carol Casara and loving it. Thank you for caring about presentation :)!

  7. WendysHat says:

    Absolutely YES! I love pretty too and it’s so easy to do!

  8. I grew up in the midwest, with two parents who were raised on a farm? Presentation? My mother didn’t even know that seasoning made food taste better!

  9. Yvonne says:

    Funny, I was just thinking about all this. I am a good cook and actually owned a restaurant for a while, and I love to set a pretty table. BUT I’m not a pretty baker and even screw up cutting a cake or pie into wedges. I grew up Italian so it was all about the pasta sauce and the cheeses and the good olive oil from Italy in the gallon can under the sink.
    No one ever complains when I cook…

  10. Donna says:

    Yes it does….but pretty doesn’t cover up yucky food. My tablescapes are important an it makes people feel good, but food trumps how it looks. I love mini cupcakes and my lemon bars are legend

  11. I am so addicted to the “presentation” now. I call it my feast for the eyes. Loved the owl!

  12. Two things: I am a huge fan of underfilled plates, and in fact lose my appetite if there’s too much there. And thank you for the gravy spill advice, because that is such a buzzkill when it isn’t done. And two, I read that last graphic quickly and thought you were saying the opposite (Pretty Girls are the Happiest) and for a second, I wondered if something happened to you.

  13. Lana says:

    I’d eat both cupcakes in a heartbeat!

  14. Haralee says:

    Presentation is important in food, and buying experience. Delicious for the eyes as well as the taste buds. A nicely wrapped purchase makes you feel good about your buy!

  15. Pretty absolutely tastes better. I always try to serve a presentation even if its frozen pizza in front of the TV. I love using different types of chargers and different kinds of herb or fruit garnishes.
    It is so simple to drizzle some chocolate on a dessert plate and add a strawberry.

  16. I would have to agree with your mom on a lot of it. My mom calls it fru fru. This coming from a woman who made hamburgers and french fries at least 4 night a week. I only go gor three’s ne even numbers. We use white plates that’s more about King OCD than presentation. I gelieve it should be pretty but taste is much more important!

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