What's the Deal with Garnish?

To be honest, we've never seen the point of that single sprig of parsley artfully balanced on top of our steak or mound of pasta. Why bother when most people simply push it to the side and dig in parsley-free? We've given it some thought, though, and wonder if there might be more to garnishes than meets the eye.

One of the first reasons chefs started garnishing plates with herbs like parsley and mint was as a breath freshener and a digestive aid. It was something you nibbled after you were done eating - a mini-salad, if you will!

Along the way, someone must have noticed that a little bit of green made plates of food look more appetizing. Think about a bowl of stew or a plate of fettuccine alfredo. We eat with our eyes first, the saying goes, and a sprinkle of green herbs brings a pop of color to the otherwise monochrome plate of food.

We start to perk up when people start pushing the boundaries of what qualifies as garnish. Things like frizzled onions on top of a steak or popcorn floating in tomato soup. Are these another ingredient in the dish or a garnish to pique our interest? Does it matter?! The parsley gets set aside, but we'll happily gobble these little morsels.

What's your feeling about garnishes? Do you garnish meals at home?

Related: Crispy, Crunchy, Chewy: 6 Unusual Garnishes for Soup

(Image: Flickr member acockle licensed under Creative Commons)

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