The way we look at food has changed so much over time. Food has always been, and it still is, mostly about sustenance. However, we’ve started to think more about the quality of food, its origins, how it was raised.
We brought in ethics into how we feed ourselves. It makes sense, since we’re more aware of the world around us than we’ve ever been, and we’re more aware of the consequences our actions, and our desired, have on the larger scheme of things. But in the same time, we have also developed an insatiable thirst for pleasure. So, a single meal should taste good, but wouldn’t it be an added pleasure if it also looked good?
The fact of the matter is that eating has become an experience, especially when eating out in restaurants. Everything about the restaurant adds something to the experience – from the music that’s played, the waiting staff, the cutlery the restaurant used, the décor of the restaurant, right to the taste of the food, the amuse bouche served in an Aava set, and the quality of napkins we used to wipe our mouth at the end of the meal. All of these things fit in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to give us what we want from a dining experience, with new pieces constantly being added to make the puzzle more complex and satisfying. Presentation is one of those pieces.
But there’s more to presentation than just that. Presentation also means that the dishes have to be clean and whole. It also means that the meals should be served in appropriate vessels, with proper utensils ready to be used as soon as the plate is placed on the table, or when the food is placed on the plate. Good presentation is important because it makes things so much more practical. The aforementioned amuse bouche isn’t served in a highly stylized vessel just because it would look good – the vessel was specially designed to hold an amuse bouche. It’s beautiful and practical.
Of course, there’s the fact that if food is properly presented on the plate, you’ll be able to see what you’re eating. You’ll be able to discern the green stuff from the brown stuff, as kids would say, which is especially important if you’re eating out and you really need to know if the food you’re eating is the food you ordered. The way food is presented on a plate might also be an exercise of the chef’s visual artistry, because food today is not only presented, it’s also stylized. Playing with colors, textures, sizes and garnishing is something that’s done both while devising a meal and presenting it, and all that effort goes into it for one reason – so you can enjoy your food more.
And that you will do. This might not be a scientifically proven fact, but it is something many people have experienced – the same meal prepared with the same ingredients in the same way will taste better if it’s beautifully presented. Might be that evolution has programmed us to know that things that look better taste better – it would make sense, if you think about it. Ripe fruit looks better than rotting fruit, and it tastes better as well. But even if it’s for another reason, the important thing is that presentation is matters in modern cuisine because it allows us to enjoy food even more, and that counts for a lot.