While the basic function of food has always been and still is to sustain the body and survive, eating has long been intertwined with culture and socializing among humans. Different cultures espouse different recipes, flavors, and combinations of foods as a result of tradition and regional offerings. Indian cuisine, for instance, is known for its spicy flavors while European food boasts various cheeses and wheat products. There are of course many crossovers between food cultures now since we live in a global society, but the fact remains that food means much more to humans than just nourishment.
How Important is Presentation?
Depending on the dining experience, the importance of presentation will vary. Fast food restaurants, for instance, understand that their customers care more about eating something fast and cheap than relaxing with a meal, and the presentation reflects that. Fine dining establishments, however, treat their food as art, and customers know they’re paying for more than just good food. Atmosphere, service, and presentation are all factored in as well.
Preferences for food presentation are also dependent on age. Kids generally like to see 6 different colors in their meals along with 7 food components. Adults, on the other hand, prefer a simpler 3 colors and 3 components. The importance of food presentation has also increased with the rise of social media photo sharing services like Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest, on which people love to share photos of their meals. A popular Flickr group dubbed “I Ate This,” for example, features over 300,000 pictures contributed by nearly 20,000 people. These numbers are only growing as more people adopt smartphones and as phone cameras improve.
Then there are the dozens of competitive reality television shows based on food preparation and presentation, which have captivated audiences for the past decade, and continue to do so. Judges on these shows are looking for more than just flavor, but also aesthetic appeal and creativity. The competitors use edible flowers and clays, candied flowers, microgreens and more to create some truly inspired dishes and cakes. The line between food and art is often blurred, and the popularity of these shows proves it.
What Makes for Good Food Presentation?
Many of the aspects that make for good art and photography also go into good food presentation, though the food also needs to taste good, of course. Color is important. As stated earlier, adults prefer some combination of three colors in a fine meal. Colors that contrast will make the entire meal pop and appear more appetizing. Composition, or the way the food components are arranged, is also key. The main part of the meal should be the largest and most visible, with seasonings, additional flavors, and sides playing secondary and tertiary roles.
For desserts, items like candied flowers can go a long way in cake decoration, along with other edible and inedible components. The difference between what’s edible and what isn’t should always be clear, however. With savory dishes, the addition of microgreens can add both flavor and visual appeal to a dish, especially meat entrees.
We as humans are visual creatures. We enjoy looking at well-composed images that pop in our minds. Food is another art form, and we enjoy seeing good food just as much as we enjoy tasting it. With edible additions like candied flowers and microgreens we can make our meals look and taste better, and take a good picture for posterity. Food should be about more than just eating, but also about enjoying in every sensory way.