Presentation is a big part of what you learn in culinary school. How food is designed and plated is nearly as important as how it tastes. Some might argue it’s just as important, since food has to look appealing before someone will pick up a fork or spoon and dig in.
Some might argue that appearance is just as important as taste, since food has to look appealing before someone will grab a fork or spoon and dig in.
It’s a good discipline for me to learn. I tend to hit the mark on flavors and textures, but my plating skills leave something to be desired. Or, rather, they’re on the rustic side, if you want to be charitable. As you can see from my first attempt at Classic Fruit Tart, pictured above, I’m still working on it. We made these in our Intro to Baking class yesterday. While I labored to turn out my rather plain-Jane rendition, many of my classmates created artistic, even architectural designs with strawberries, kiwi, blackberries, mandarin oranges, and other fruit.
As I struggled to arrange my fruit neatly on its bed of pate sucree and pastry cream, it occurred to me that baking shares a lot of qualities with the scrap-booking and home crafts crowd. Both love intricacy and detail. What I consider fussy, they consider doing it right. And, indeed, their results are stunning. And appetizing.
Mine are thought-provoking and deep, as I learned when a classmate strolled over to have a look at my efforts. I thought my tart was OK–pretty good for me, actually.
“Hmm, it looks a bit like womb,” he ventured.
“A womb?” I asked, gesturing toward my uteral region to be sure I’d heard correctly. It gets loud in the kitchen.
“Yeah,” he answered. “The orange looks like a little baby protected by the fruit…” He explained that he’d spent a year in art school, so he tended to look at things a bit differently.
But when I took another look at my tart, I could see he was right: the mandarin oranges arranged in the middle did look a bit like a fetus curled up in a protective circle of blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, and strawberries. Check it out from another angle:
I was tickled by my classmate’s observation. As he pointed out, food can be an edible Rorschach test, and my humble tart suddenly became a whole lot more interesting. Maybe not more appetizing–fetus tart isn’t for everyone–but certainly more intriguing.