Hundred-year-old Garnishing Tips

Even in the days before Instagram (and blogs) people wanted to present their food in attractive ways. Here’s some hundred-year-old advice for garnishing food:

Garnishing the Dish

All food must be neatly placed in the dish, and arranged or piled with some sort of symmetry, and this is the most that some people have time to do. Many foods may be served in the utensil or dish in which they are cooked, and in the case of a baking dish, if its appearance is not neat, a napkin can be folded about it. The simplest form of garnish is browning on top, which makes many dishes attractive (mashed potato).

Make the garnish simple, and have it eatable when possible. Slices of hard boiled eggs on spinach, shopped parsley and butter on boiled or mashed potatoes, parsley and slices of lemon with meat and fish.

Vegetable borders are attractive and save labor in dish washing. Arrange the meat in the center of the platter, and pile mashed potato, or boiled rice or peas or beans, or a mixture of hot vegetables around the edge. This saves time in table service, too.

Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1915)


15 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Garnishing Tips

  1. I still can hear my home ec teacher: “Contrast! girls. Contrast!” Light garnish went on dark foods (grated cheese on broccoli) and dark garnish went on light (parsley on filet of sole). Cheddar cheese could do for potatoes, but mozzarella? Never.

    1. I love your description of your home ec teacher. I can almost picture her (or maybe I’m picturing my home ec teacher). They sound very similar.

    1. We don’t talk as much about garnishing food today; but, in this era of instagram and blogs, I think that there’s still a focus (perhaps more than ever) on presenting food in attractive ways.

  2. I found it interesting to place the meat in the middle with mashed potatoes and vegetables around it,never seen that done might be fun to try it!

  3. “must be placed neatly in the dish”? 🙂 Fun article, Sheryl. And to see how we’ve gone from china to Melmac (even those divided plates so your peas didn’t scoot into your mashed potatoes) to TV dinners to eating right out of the take-out containers. I plead guilty to all, but I do try now to eat off a china plate, even in I’m sitting on the sofa — and I think all those stale parsley sprigs in my earlier life have put me off forever!

    1. Your comment makes me smile. It so accurately and succinctly captures how food has been served across the years. I can just picture those sad sprigs of wilted parsley that once appeared on almost every plate.

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