Ideal meals need to be beautiful

March 23, 2010

I’ve been going on this topic of ideal meals as part of this whole “your ideal life starts with breakfast” thing (more info here,) and I had a few more “aha” moments over the weekend.

An idea meal needs to be something your body craves, in a setting that you love, enjoyed with exactly who you want to enjoy it with, and lasting just how long you want it to last, but maybe more importantly of all, an ideal meal needs to be beautiful.

Aesthetics count for a lot more than we realize.  I think we’ve come a long way from the stereotypes of tie-dyed hemp ponchos (and I’m sure some can be beautiful, but not most, OK?), but there’s still a sense of sacrifice tied to vibrant eating (i.e. “can’t eat X”) that doesn’t make any sense to me, and that includes the concept of “I don’t need this meal to look pretty, it’s just for me.”

I’m starting to think that there’s something seriously wrong when we won’t do for ourselves what we’ll gladly do for other people. If you were having a dinner party, you’d pay attention to presentation, right?  So why don’t you do this with every meal you make for yourself? What makes you think you aren’t worth the “trouble”?

Your eyes are one of the first organs to get involved in the digestion process. The mere sight of food is enough to start a whole bunch of biological systems into motion to get ready to receive nourishment, and while early cavemen probably didn’t have a lot of dishes to choose from, the fact of the matter is that we’ve got choices in modern society, and I believe that food that’s plated well is going to digest better than food that’s eaten straight from the pot.  You’re going to appreciate it more, and even if I’m wrong, let’s face it: it’s really not that much effort and it’ll feel so much better.

I’ve been having my “ideal breakfast” for the past week or so now, which is fresh fruit, served in a bright white plate or bowl, eaten at the kitchen counter (we have a long buffet with stools) while I review what’s up for the day.  I can tell you firsthand, the nice dishes make a difference.  There’ve been a few days where I was tempted to just use the container the fruit was in in the fridge, or eat on the couch where I couldn’t enjoy our nice new kitchen, but I couldn’t do it, for reasons that would have sounded stupid to me even a month ago but I’m just now learning to explain: breakfast just wouldn’t have been pretty enough.

Later this week I’ll share some simple tips for making your meals more beautiful, but I wanted to get this little epiphany out there first to get you used to the idea.  Tonight when you make dinner, take an extra 30 seconds to arrange your food in a new way, and see if it doesn’t make the meal feel like more of an accomplishment.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

hamishmcbookersons March 23, 2010 at 3:41 pm

You make a good point. But where am I going to store my 11×17 silver platter at work? Jk.

Seriously, what you say makes a lot of sense.

jasondoucette March 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Haha, that'll be next: “your ideal life needs an ideal storage solution” 🙂

hamishmcbookersons March 24, 2010 at 7:35 pm

I think IKEA has a lock on that particular disaster.

smally March 25, 2010 at 5:10 am

How about this: I don't care enough about the appearance of my food to put in that extra 30 seconds? If someone else does it for me, in a restaurant or at a dinner party, it's just a bonus, but one I can live without.

It's not that I don't think I'm worth the trouble, it's as simple as not really giving a crap, as hard as that may be for food aesthetes to understand.

jasondoucette March 25, 2010 at 11:51 am

Thanks for putting that out there! It's a valid point, and one I certainly used to feel the same way about.

For me, what changed my thinking was the idea that food is the most vital thing in my life, because it makes everything else happen, and more importantly it controls how everything else happens – my mood, my thoughts, my energy levels, etc. Putting some extra time into meal preparation and presentation is a precursor to digestion, so even if I feel like it's not worth the trouble for the meal, I believe it's worth the effort for everything else that's going to happen today.

And hey, maybe I'm wrong, but there are worse ways to spend 30 seconds for such a great potential payoff!

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