How many times have you been left disappointed the moment that “hot chicks” or the “oh so good looking guy” dressed in finest of brands opened her/his mouth to say a few cuss words?
How many times have you been left disappointed the moment you took the first bite of that gorgeous looking dish on your plate looking as if the great artists descended from heavens to bring this artwork on your table?
Well I would say in both the cases, way too many times in our lives.
Just as they say the beauty is skin deep, the most beautiful are those who appeal to our hearts and souls. I being a hardcore food worshiper extend this fact of the life to the food as well. According to me the most gorgeous of all dishes is the one that appeal to our taste buds and in turn leaves that rich aftertaste for our hearts. As the world is growing beauty obsessed and the perceptior of beauty being distorted with each passing day or with the launch of each beauty treatment ; are we also styling our food little too much?
Of course it should look great and appeal to my eyes; that being my second sensory interaction with dish (after my nose interacted with divine aroma) but that doesn’t mean it can discount the value or importance of taste and flavour. When we lay our eyes on stunning cakes, exquisite cookies or those heavenly looking curries, the impulse kicks in and we are surely tempted to eat but we should also understand that, to sustain that excitement it should taste great as well. If the impulse can get us to drool and eat it, it can also let us leave the food unfinished and try the next dazzling dish!
Sometimes when I eat such carefully crafted masterpieces off my plate, I wonder if little more time and thought had gone on developing the taste, wouldn’t be a lot better dish! For me a beautiful chocolate cake is not one of the drop dead gorgeous designer cakes but the humble good old Wenger’s luscious dark chocolate cake which melts into my mouth and is a divine experience and hence it’s ‘beautiful”.
If you try and study the human psychic, you’ll realise that the vision has a bearing on the perception of food. Whenever we see tantalizing food, we conclude its equally great tasting and in turn our expectations sky rocket and trust me most of the time they come crashing down on ground after the first bite. I would always choose the not so artfully done food that surprises me with rich taste and leave me delighted over the former.
The fancier and snazzier the place, chances are, more thought and efforts are gone to enhance the visual or aesthetic appeal of the dish than developing the taste and a lot of times the eyes are quickly contradicted by the tongue. Maybe that’s why the fancy or five stars can never replicate the taste of street food joints!!
Sometime back I ate the pav bhaji in one of the fancy hotels, which looked stylishly dressed with the soft pav/bun cut out as bite sized roundels smothered with rich bhaji on top and garnished with delicately chopped onions, butter shavings and coriander, laid out on plate decorated with lemon wedges. Trust me it had everything but the taste needed, the pav / bun became soggy because it absorbed the moisture from the bhaaji and it was nothing less than a disaster. I wonder would I have not been tempted enough to eat it if it was served the conventional way and I had to dunk my hands in buttery bhaaji. Sometimes the dressers of these dishes forget about the functionality or the practical aspects of the food. The dish had spectacular visual presentation but all style and no substance is not my idea of a good meal.
Cooks or chefs often pay close attention to plate presentation, choosing ingredients and techniques to suit a desired effect, following a standard arrangement & wiping away drips. Diners like me are often transfixed by dazzling food when it arrives at the table, yet even the most impressive sculpture collapses at the strike of knife, fork or spoon so that plate presentation is evanescent, what is left behind is the after taste. When i intend to eat don’t want an artwork on my plate, I’ll waste my time appreciating the beauty of the dish, I would rather browse through pictures of mouth watering food to admire their beauty at peace. The chefs or cooks who spend so much time on plate presentation to enhance the visual appeal need to understand that diners are there to eat to their hearts content and nothing can discount the taste.
My humble request to practitioners of food styling is, please refrain from using non edible stuff, we believe everything that is on plate is meant to be eaten and sometimes this can cause serious problems. Secondly try to use flavourful garnishes that match the dish, imagine the hara dhaniya / coriander sprinkled on fettuccine in pesto sauce. Lastly nothing can beat simplicity with elegance when it comes to lying down food on a plate!
All I want is good looking food with a taste to match and not a mere showpiece!!
Wrtten by Anuradha Gupta