Setting the Thanksgiving Holiday Table

I have a confession. I don’t worry about presentation all that much when I serve dinner. Basically, I check to make sure that the food item fits in the dish. When my husband and I got married, I didn’t have a bridal shower with a registry for serving dishes. We were naïve and thought that the cobbled together dishware that we had was functional and good enough. Having nearly a decade of married life under my belt, I can tell you unequivocally that WE WERE WRONG. Food tastes better when its presentation is better. No, I’m not making it up. In Flavour – an international open access journal about food and food science – Michel, et al reported on a study they had performed on three groups of individuals presented with salads that were composed of the same ingredients but presented in different manners. To make a long journal article short, the salad that was presented to resemble a Kandinsky painting – that is to say, in an artistic manner – was rated not only to be worth more, but also to taste better. The. Exact. Same. Salad. Now, you can debate with me the statistical relevance of Likert scales all you want, but the researchers used an objective scale on purpose. They wanted to measure their subjects’ perceptions of the salads. A Likert scale is the kind of thing you usually see when you’re asked to take a survey and rate a thing on a scale of 1 to 10. They’re easy for people to understand and they’re easy to score.

But enough about science. Just go with me when I say it matters how you display your food. What was fine for my husband and I when we were in college is not fine for us now. We’re adults, and even if we still eat the same kind of foods, we could stand to act like adults when we eat them. So where does this leave us? Well, this Thanksgiving we are gonna have to step up our game, because we’ve been invited to a friend’s house for Friendsgiving. I don’t know who is bringing what yet, but whatever we get, I’m going to make sure it looks like a masterpiece.

So what’s that mean? Well, my haphazardly collected Gladware isn’t going to cut it, at the very least. If we were having the gathering at our house, I’d go all out. Our turkey would be all crisp-skinned and golden, having pride of place in the center of our table. The platter it would be on would be one of those really cool ones that has the giant lid. You know the kind I mean. We’d have covered dishes the likes of which you only see in the movies. I would buy bakeware that is pretty enough that it can double as serving ware, as opposed to the plain glass that I currently have. I’d even go so far as to purchase nice serving utensils and not use the same ones that I use when preparing the food. Of course, I’d lay it all out on a nice Thanksgiving tablecloth. I know that a lot of people associate orange with thanksgiving, but I think I’d go with a nice plaid cloth if I could find one. Yeah, a plaid tablecloth, solid color napkins, and white baking/serving ware. All that wants is a set of napkin rings and some elegant glasses and we’d be good to go. But since I’m not doing everything this year, I’ll stick with just a set of the bakeware and add all the rest on later. I don’t want to clash with whatever it is everyone else brings. Although, it might be neat if you could tell who brought what by the dish. That would be a fun Friendsgiving game! Accurately guess who brought what dish and get a prize! Wine maybe?

Michel, C., Velasco, C., Gatti, E., & Spence, C. (2014). A taste of Kandinsky: assessing the influence of the artistic visual presentation of food on the dining experience. Flavour, 3:7. doi: 10.1186/2044-7248-3-7

Posted: Monday, November 14, 2016