"Be Still My Heart, Another Survey"--the headline caught my eye, and was followed by a roast of the American diet and a recounting of past wonder foods such as olive oil, seafood, and that prepared with Chinese cooking methods. The story traced the path of food studies back into history, and included details of a little-known experiment on the nutritional importance of liking what you eat.
In phase two of this Swedish study, the researcher took the ingredients of a designated meal and mashed them all together in an unappetizing mess. It was found that people absorbed much less iron when they ate the ugly food than when they ate the same amounts of the food presented attractively.
Bravo! Finally, a scientific measurement proving that how food looks is as important as how it tastes. Not that one needs much convincing after observing people's reactions to a meal when the cook has taken the extra time to float a mushroom slice on a bowl of clear soup, or to put carrot curls (instead of chopped or grated) on a salad, or to arrange the slices of bread in a fan around a dish of jelly instead of putting the bread bag on the table.
Radish roses, parsley sprigs, orange slices, and frilly lettuce collars are all things we have seen at restaurants and perhaps used at home on occasion. But I would also like to suggest giving similar artistic thought to other steps of the meal preparation. When making fruit salad, think in terms of shapes and colors. If the apples are in square chunks, make the oranges into triangles and the kiwi fruit into circles; include something spherical such as melon balls or organic grapes. If the fruit salad is all pastel, sprinkle on a few blueberries or raisins for contrast.