Last Christmas I was invited to stay with some friends and colleagues from Germany for the holidays. Every morning we would wake up and fix breakfast. We would set the table. We would prepare the food and we would sit down and enjoy the meal together. The host as she prepared our plates of food, made a point to create beautiful plates. She would put slices of meat fanned out on one half of the plate while complimenting the other half with cheeses. She set out yogurt and fruit and everything was wonderfully staged for the our eating pleasure.
I realized that it doesn’t take any extra time to make a pretty plate and what a pleasure it was to have it sitting in front of me as I began to nourish my body with the food that had been prepared for me.
When I was in my 20s I was a manager for a national family restaurant chain. After the food was cooked in the kitchen, it was put into a window between the kitchen and the server’s station to have the final “touches” before the plates were taken to the anxiously awaiting customers. Final touches included creating plate presentations with garnishes and taking extra special care with how the food looked, before it left the kitchen are and was sat in front of the patron. As a manager it was my job to make sure plate looked pretty coming out of the kitchen. During restaurant manager training, I learned that how a plate looked was just as important as what the food tasted like. If the food on the plate looked all disheveled and strewn about, then when a patron began to eat it, they would perceive that the food wouldn’t taste as good had the food come out on a plate that was neat and orderly. At the time it seemed like a ridiculous concept, but because it was part of my job, I trained my staff to make sure we had pretty plates for our customers.
Little did I know, that on one Saturday morning many years later, would I experience the importance of a pretty plate and what I was taught in my restaurant training. My dad, my sister and my nephews were staying with me one weekend. When the boys got up, I asked them, “what would you like for breakfast?” “Green eggs and ham,” my oldest nephew replied. My dad and I laughed at him and I said, “Okay, I’ll fix you green eggs and
ham.” So I scrambled up some eggs and added some veggies to the mix (like I normally would) and little ham cubes to make up some omelettes. I found my food coloring and put 2 squirts of green into the omelette batter and cooked them as I normally would. Surprisingly enough, when I sat the plates in front of the boys, they were excited that I had made them Green eggs and Ham and they began to eat their meals to clean and
happy plates. I too enjoyed the green eggs and ham. I had made the omelettes just like I normally did only with the green food coloring. And all tasted fine.
The next morning, when the boys woke up and I asked them what they wanted to breakfast, the younger one chimed in and said, “Red eggs and ham.” We laughed again, and I cooked the meals up as I normally did only this time putting in Red food coloring. We sat down to eat, everyone with red eggs and ham in front of them. They boys were thrilled again (I was the coolest Aunt ever). But for me and my dad when we started to eat, something was different. The Red Eggs and ham didn’t taste as good. AND the only difference between the regular omelettes, the green omelettes and the red omelettes, was the tasteless food coloring. I took 2 bites of the red eggs and ham and I couldn’t eat
it. I just didn’t look right to me, and by association, it didn’t taste right either. I was amazed because in that moment when I remembered my training from the restaurant and had now experienced that ugly food, or food on an ugly plate just doesn’t taste that good. (Even though it’s the same exact food if put on a pretty plate.)
So when I returned from Germany, I began creating “pretty plates” for myself at every meal.