Do people laugh when you put food on the table? Are you ashamed of how your leeks look? Fear not for here coming at you like an embossed invitation to Abigail’s Party, is Food Presenting Secrets featuring all the Creative Styling Techniques you never knew you needed.
How have you entertained so long and not known that when it comes to simple wooden boards to serve food on ‘you can never have too many’? Did you know a tablecloth should hang 30 cm below the table? Any less and guests may spy that your table is in fact an old door on trestles.
Yes these and many more tips are here ready to be wondered at in slack-jawed admiration. Learn your pastry presentation, your vegetable garnishes, your purees and your strips, your baskets, boxes and croutes, not to mention your chocolate garnishes.
It comes as perhaps no surprise to learn that Jo Denbury, one of the co-authors, was once Features Editor for Elle Decoration. Only people with jobs like that can take all this kind of thing seriously as well as have all the spare time to try it out. For those of us who think the family should consider itself lucky to get any food on the table at all, given that we didn’t get home until 8.p.m (again), this all seems like another world.
Still if you want to impress, this is the book to have close to hand. From an introduction to food presenting skills, including choice of plate (in our house that’s a choice between chipped and very chipped), positioning of the food (on the plate works best for us) and colour coordination (is white better than black?) the authors move to edible garnishes and over 100 techniques – from chilli curls (not, apparently, an ailment), carrot spaghetti, crunchy praline twists and drizzled raspberry coulis, to all the other cheffy tricks you see in restaurants.
The tone of voice can’t help but remind you of the lady of the house trying to educate the servants but that’s inevitable. After all this book is for the ordinary people who, bless them, don’t know to lay a table correctly and who think a parmesan basket is something you take to Lidl’s.
However it is strangely fascinating and you find yourself caught in its middle-class headlights like a chav rabbit. You want to wrap your green beans in a slice of prosciutto, to make a chocolate flower and to even make a tomato rose, surely something not seen on a plate since 1980.
The techniques are clear, the photos comprehensive, and the kitchen schedule planner indispensable. However for those of us that reckon our friends can have casserole again because, quite frankly, Jenny is always bloody late, her brute of a husband always drunk and their kids impossible to drag away from the Xbox, this book is about as relevant to daily life as an instruction manual for the space shuttle.
For those lucky souls who can have a dinner party without it turning into a cacophony of accusation and counter recrimination, this book will be something to discuss in depth outside the school gates while the family 4×4 is parked up blocking the pavement.
This book definitely has its uses; for one thing you can use it to prop up that wonky leg on the dining room table. It’s a book from another planet, one inhabited by strange alien beings. I feel both ashamed of my slovenly table presentation and at the same time oddly proud. Read it and weep.