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)