Eat, Plate, Love

Beauty is an interesting thing; it may not exactly be a virtue, but at times it can be more powerful than any other force in the world.

Few things can stop us dead in our tracks like an epic sunrise, a hand crafted Italian sports car, or even a stunning stranger. We can’t help but marvel at beauty, and for a second we forget about everything else. And if that sunrise or sports car or stranger has other enviable traits or talents, well then we’re smitten and on the very precipice of that thing called love.

The same can be said of food. It can be ordinary and unremarkable. But presented and prepared with beauty, that simple dish of say, sautéed rainbow carrots becomes something more; something artistic we connect with in a visceral way that incorporates all the senses. And that connection makes everything about that food even better.

In that sense, those carrots are no longer just carrots.

They are an experience.

An expression of love.

Too bad then that’s there’s not more love in the world, particularly on our plates. Because ingredients and plating and lighting and color all matter, especially when it comes to enjoying good food – healthy food – it all matters.

As a kid, my only experience with fruits and vegetables was whatever mush emerged out of a can. That mush was usually poured into a nondescript bowl, microwaved far too long, and made tolerable by a generous slab of margarine, salt, and at times table sugar.

It wasn’t until years later that I finally saw what actual fresh spinach leaves looked like, learned that brussel sprouts came on an actual stalk (who knew?!), or that pears had skin that came in a variety of colors and could be satisfying in their own right when cut in half and presented properly.

The lesson being that nature just has a way of making everything good and beautiful from the jump; when we try to process it or improve it too much, we kind of screw it up.

On the other end of the spectrum are scientists, who have long toyed with our senses when it comes to what and how we eat. Environmental cues like music, temperature and even the patterns in tablecloths will encourage us to speed up or slow down how quickly we eat and put fork to mouth. (And the size, shape and weight of that fork can also be tested and engineered to change our experience…)

We also know from at least one experiment that strawberry ice cream is ranked higher in taste, quality and sweetness when it is served in a container of a certain color. Tell someone that same ice cream was hand-crafted, slow churned, or from special New Zealand dairy cows and our perception of that ice cream and our experience consuming it is also enriched.

These seemingly trivial findings are actually quite important, especially if one of our personal or broader social goals is to ‘eat better’ which we can loosely define as eating less processed items and more earth grown nutrients.

As our nation charges full steam ahead toward a population dead set on making obesity the norm (50 percent of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030 according to the CDC), having pleasingly plated, nutrient rich foods readily available and accessible is at least a small step in the right direction.

And that’s especially true when incorporating new foods to picky eaters; environment, preparation and presentation at least give that rutabaga a chance.

So with that in mind, it’s not a bad idea to take some extra time to scour your house for plates and flatware that enhance whatever it is you plan to be serving – even if it happens to be good ol’ avocado toast. Spend some extra time preparing it too, and give it a little beauty. And while you’re at it, double check your surroundings – your entire eating environment – so that the atmosphere enhances the entire experience.

You can also check out what the progressive chefs and restaurants are doing to make their food look more tantalizing, and copy that next time you feed yourself or your family. I’ve done exactly that with red cabbage; adding it to nearly every salad I make for some extra crunch and a pop of color that makes all the difference.

Finally, don’t forget to visit and patronize the restaurants, cafes and chefs that echo the ethos you’d like to see in the world. Are their products organic and/or local? Are they prepared in a way that maximizes nutrients or at least minimizes excess calories? Are they presented and served in at appetizing way? Is there a rainbow of color on your plate? Do the cooks and chefs incorporate unusual fruits and vegetables or incorporate spices and herbs you don’t normally use? And last but certainly not least, is the place, presentation and food beautiful?

All of those elements go a long way in helping us connect with what we consume, and help us enjoy it all the more. And if we’re really lucky, we even get a little bit of love along the way.

By Tom Trevino


Tim The Girl Catering offers fresh and vibrant food for private events and corporate gatherings throughout the San Antonio area. Send your inquiry here.