Presentation is more than a bit of parsley on the plate. Proper presentation helps us anticipate what we will experience when we eat. We taste our food with our eye first. Then we smell it. Then we taste it. But our eyes are first.
And when we truly enjoy our food, we are more likely to feel satisfied, and less likely to keep eating. Think about all those cookbooks and cooking magazines that we read. Absolutely beautiful pictures, right? Those food photographers are true artists. When I try to duplicate the recipes, I am happy if I am even close to the professional photo. Still, I'd like to think that I am not horrible at food presentation.
And my BBQ'd Chicken Thighs, Mashed Potatoes and Cheesy Broccoli looks edible, too.
My Dublin Lawyer with Beer Carrots and Steamed Asparagus looks good.
Even something with an appearance as boring as Baked Tilapia, Mashed Parsnips and Zucchini Fries looks okay with it's contrasting textures and service on a colorful plate.
Petite Cut Sirloin Steak with Onion FrillsOkay. They are trying to sell a steak. Where is it? And the part I see looks a bit burnt. And a half piece of toast, blending in with the onion frills? It probably tastes good, but would you order this? Is it worth the $13 they are charging? Where is the side salad that comes with the meal? Even some steamed dilled carrots (not an available option) would be a welcome addition to the meal.
Chicken Cordon Bleu ($14)
All I see is a yellow sauce covering something lumpy underneath it. Is it meat? It is vegetable? Who knows? Ideally, this should have been cut open to show the chicken under the sauce. Even better, the chicken could have been plated ON the sauce, allowing us to see the chicken. (What I think when I see this is "what are they hiding from me?") But this picture is all about the sauce. And a slice of orange? Come on! What about something with contrast, such as a tomato-cucumber salad?
Baked Cod ($12)I don't know what to say about this. Well, actually yes, I really do know what to say. The plate is too large. The fish is white on a white plate. The piece of lettuce and lemon wedge look old and anemic (and are almost the size of the fish portion!) Where is the starch to give it some color? Maybe they could have put some some sweet potato fries on the side (except this restaurant doesn't offer them.) How about a portion of butternut squash puree in the center of the plate with the fish placed on it (again, not offered as an option) would be better. Maybe pair the butternut squash puree with a fresh and tart broccoli slaw? But this plate? Ugh.
Food needs to look good before it will taste good. And it needs to both look and taste good to be satisfying. Otherwise, you are just chewing and eating something that will physically fill you but emotionally leave you still hungry.
That is the difference between "full" and "satisfied." Eating food that energizes all our senses will more likely leave us feeling satisfied and complete because we are experiencing it through multiple sensory pathways in the brain. (Likewise, when you are learning something new, you will have greater recall if you are able to learn the information using your eyes, ears, hands and voice. But that is a completely different lecture!)
Besides tossing a bit of greenery on a plate, what can you do to enliven your meal? Go to a thrift store and find some colorful plates, in different shapes sizes so that you can use a smaller plate for a smaller portion size and not have the food look inconsequential. Prepare your food nicely. Find menu items with contrasting colors, textures and tastes and combine them in a meal. Try new foods! Explore the culinary world. Read new cookbooks and magazines for ideas, and pay attention to what is paired together.
More importantly, eat what you love. Eat the correct amount of calories (or if you are in Weight Watchers, eat all your points.) And feel satisfied when you eat, so that you do not feel the urge to graze your way through the pantry an hour after dinner.
Next: The LAST "P" of Long Term Success! (And more recipes, of course!)