Technicolor Food: Think Before You Eat

For St Patrick’s Day, it’s not just people who will celebrate by wearing ‘o the green, food will be taking on a decidedly different hue.

Image by SteveFE via sxc.hu (edited by me)

Green beer is only the beginning.

It seems like green got an early start with many people celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday last weekend, there were lots of versions of green eggs (with or without the ham) popping up. I’ve seen green velvet cake on Pinterest, but at least it’s a change from the rainbow cakes featuring layer upon layer of technicolor batter. And that before we even get to the cakes, cupcakes, and cookies dripping with green icing.

We eat with our eyes, it’s true. And a great way to insure maximum nutrition is to have many colors on your plate. So I suppose it’s no surprise that we’re drawn to these technicolor foods: they’re meant to be festive, after all.

Yes, back in my cake-decorating days I dealt my share of vibrantly colored cakes and pastries. I used to love red velvet cake before I made my first one from scratch only to cringe at the 2 bottles of liquid dye it takes to achieve that rich, red color. These days all I can taste is the chemical bitterness, not the lightly-chocolate cake underneath.

Since putting away my decorating tools I definitely prefer simpler foods, in their rich, natural hues, to overly decorated sweets. Lately I’ve spent so much time reading labels, it’s clear that avoiding artificial colorings completely is unreasonable, it’s one thing to allow a little bit here and there to dumping the stuff into our food on our own.

Which brings us back to the point of my ramblings: there are plenty of green things to eat without resorting to food coloring!

For instance, in the green (deviled) eggs media maven Tori Spelling served up last week, instead of using green food coloring in the egg mixture, blend in a bit of pesto to add both color and flavor. I’m not a huge fan of green smoothies, but that’s another way to get some natural green into your diet–festive and healthy! Spinach and kale–common elements in those smoothies–can be added to many dishes to add some color. And for sweets, consider the flavor and color of mint to guide your choices.

Of course, green isn’t the only color abused so heinously. With Easter coming up, you might be looking for other creative colors to grace your table. If you want a bright yellow dish, try adding turmeric to a sauce or marinade. Carrots and sweet potatoes both make adding some orange to your meal simple as a quick steam. Pink can be achieved through pomegranate or cherry juices, as well as beets for a deeper, almost-purple color. Blue is the toughest color to get, but mostly because a vivid blue is generally a sign of mold in food–not something you really want. Even blueberries stain more greenish-purple than blue.

That said, the actual color of foods isn’t the only avenue to explore for a festive air. Colorful plates and napkins can dress up everyday foods, and a pretty cellophane bag or some colorful ribbon can dress up sweets in their natural state.

So pin as many felt or fabric clovers to yourself as you want, but resist the temptation of the watered down green beer being served this weekend (or ever) and consider finding the green (and other colors on your plate) in a more natural state.

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