Theory of the garnish

Crescents of lemon & circles of orange orbit the earthly paradise of the plate. A freshly felled miniature tree, a replica of the inner ear fashioned from a single slice of apple — the garnish turns eating into a cautious act. We pause with our forks poised over carrot curls & strawberries exposed as if for surgery, pickle slices stacked like green coins. How many truckloads of produce bound for the city each day go into these brief displays of inconspicuous non-consumption? It seems wrong to keep count. The devil is in the details & that’s where we like him: red as a maraschino, ridiculous as a toothpick parasol. During a rare lull in the general hubbub, one can just make out the bellowing of a prep cook who’s severed the end of his pinky.

8 Comments


  1. When I started reading the first few sentences I thought, ‘yum all those colorful, crunchy, juicy veggies and fruit,’ until I realized you meant the wasted garnish on the plate. I’m the one at the table who eats those little extras!

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  2. I read carefully, rereading bits, then laughed out loud.

    I was once told I would have my wages garnished. If only.

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  3. christine – Actually, so do I, most of the time. We were raised by frugal parents, my mom regularly reciting the dictum of her Pennsylvania German ancestors: “Waste not, want not.” (It took me a couple of decades to realize that what this really meant was, “Don’t waste anything and you’ll never lack for anything.” I always took the second part as an injunction against desire.)

    Hugh – Glad you liked! I thought about that expression when I was writing it, but couldn’t see how to work it in.

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  4. I think it might slip in with the last image of the clumsy cook.

    I really like this piece – the images, and the questions it raises. I never thought about garnishes en masse before!

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  5. Kia ora Dave,
    Spot on with these thoughts and words. I too, eat the garnish, more out of sympathy for the poor veges. Have a great day.
    Rangimarie,
    Robb

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  6. Tee hee, can’t help but think of the little pinky end getting worked in with the other dainty morsels! I seem to recall something from a Jane Rule novel about someone who was a good cook, and had a way with really serviceable garnishes; parsley, she said, was really just an exclamation mark, whereas good garnishes were ‘more like firmly stated subordinate clauses’.

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  7. A friend made a plate of candy and cookies for our grandchildren this Christmas. She garnished the platter with two disturbingly realistic looking mice. The children were fascinated. They all wanted to eat the mice. I watched as their fingers hovered over them, stopped, and then passed in favor of a tiny square of chocolate fudge. In the end, the mice garnish remained on the plate.

    Love your commentary on “waste not, want not.” (For anorexia, could it be “waist not, want not?”

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