Blog RSS feed

The Full Yield Blog

Pretty food

November 22, 2009 | Tags: Featured , Food | Post comment

Pretty food

Today is Sunday, the day I cook a few big pots of things to carry us—along with made-in-the-minute omelettes and salads and broiled fish and veggie burgers—through a workweek of family eating.  (Leftovers are the original convenience food.)

I made an arame and toasted sunflower seed dish, glistening black and dull silver mixed together.  I roasted halved sweet potatoes until their open sides turned crispy and their centers soft.  And I made a black eyed pea dish that got me thinking….I cooked the dry peas with chopped onions and smashed garlic in salted water.  While they were getting soft, I dumped a big can of roasted chopped tomatoes in a bowl with chopped celery, grated carrots, two bunches of minced parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and black sesame seeds.   When the black eyed peas were tender, I drained them and dumped them (and the onions and garlic) in the same big bowl and mixed it well.  It’s so darn good—and it’s an eat-all-you-can-eat kind of dish: the more you eat, the better for you.  And it looks so homey:  a gloriously messy swirl of muted pastels.

But you know what? It wouldn’t sell at the grocery store—and here’s why: it’s not a very pretty dish.  It wouldn’t win any awards for good looks and we here in America are mostly so far from real food, without ever noticing we’ve traded in good tasting food and its honest aesthetics for “prop food”—the food we see in magazines and on TV and on food packages.  We’ve so completely bought into prop food that we expect all food to look like that or we won’t trust it, won’t taste it, won’t consider changing our minds.  But prop food almost never tastes good: it’s all about styling and sales, almost never about quality and healthfulness and freshness.

Just to be clear, I love pretty food.  But to me it’s real food that’s pretty.  It’s full of life and color and I get excited about tasting it and absorbing the hand-me-down energy from the sun and the soil.

Tonight my kids will have the black eyed pea dish tossed with whole wheat fusilli and a little grated Parmesan.  They’re already excited about dinner. And they think I’m the best cook in the world.