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Music – “The Frim Fram Sauce [Clean]” from The Wartime Years – Wartime Memories [Clean] by Nat King Cole. Released: 2011
Most of us would agree that we eat with the eyes and every good cook and chef knows this. An appetizing presentation on one’s plate goes a long way to stimulating the taste buds and makes one just want to dig in. However, I have one pet peeve (well, actually, more than one, but the rest don’t belong here in a blog about cookbooks and cooking!)
In so many of the more recently published cookbooks in my collection, the food photography is outstanding. There’s nothing like a gorgeous full-page photograph of a succulent dish, glistening, redolent with colour and laid out in a pleasing design to pull your eye (and your stomach) in. But (and here comes my pet peeve), I am so tired of seeing plates of beautiful food ruined with the seemingly ever-present, and evidently ever-popular “smear” of sauce! It seems that almost every chef on The Food Network, The Cooking Channel and the rest of the food-related cooking shows utilizes the “smear” and it’s so pervasive, it’s become downright boring.
According to Chef Daniel Wilson of the Australian restaurant, Huxtable”, the sauce ‘smear‘ is a common technique. He explains: “To do one, place a spoonful of thickish sauce or purée on one side of the plate. Then turn the spoon over and place the back of the spoon into the middle of the sauce, then drag to the other side of the plate, or curve it like a comma in a quick but controlled manner.”
I have seen photographs of foods with plating sauces in lines (parallel or intersecting), droplets (randomly or in a specific pattern), pools, pulls (supposed to look like a shooting star), brushing or painting, foams, etc. For my taste, however, if you’re going to give me a sauce, then GIVE ME A SAUCE, not a measly “smear” on the plate! I want something I can dip into, pour over or smother my food in. I do not want a trace of what might have been, a glancing brush across my plate of something that is barely there.
I’m not sure when the “smear” became so popular, or who popularized it, but frankly, I think it has overstayed its welcome and has been done to death. So, please chefs, can we scrap the “smear”?