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Friday, November 5, 2010

Eating with Our Eyes

Most everyone knows the adage that we don't only eat with our mouths, but also with our eyes.  How a dish looks on the plate is important to a diner--along with the smell, it gets your taste buds ready for what's to come.

Photo by Lou Manna from
The Wall Street Journal
This is of the ultimate importance to food stylists--those folks who take take pictures or video of food for advertising, TV shows or magazines.  You may have heard of some of the old tricks to make food look perfect.  Hair spray to give luster to grapes.  Fake ice cream (made from shortening) that won't melt and can be molded into the perfect scoop.  But it seems that the trend of artisan foods, farmers' markets and the like have changed the way food stylists want to make food look.

"Messy" food is the way to go these days--a picture of a dish with chopped herbs still on the cutting board, ice cream dripping down the glass dish, veggies in a random fashion.  An interesting article from The Wall Street Journal tells more about how the way food looks helps it to sell. 

Photo by Lou Manna from
The Wall Street Journal
I'd have to agree--a picture of perfect food is simply unbelievable.  Food just doesn't look like that and thus, isn't appetizing.  But a nice glob of cheese dripping down the side of a burger?  Now, that's appetizing. 

As a comparison, look at the 2 tart pictures.  The one above was taken in the '80s.  It looks down on the perfect tart, showing the decoration.  In contrast, the photo at the right is a more recent shot.  It's taken from a lower angle, showing off the texture of the tart.  The powdered sugar gives motion and "messiness" as the sugar lands on the table as well as the tart. 

Will food styling change again in a decade or so?  Probably.  But for my taste, photos of "real" and "messy" food will make my mouth water much more than fake ice cream or hairsprayed fruit.

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