Walk through the CVS aisles, and you’ll feel the pull toward one of the colorful packaged foods. Maybe toward the pastels of the Jordan almonds, or the uniform Goldfish crackers, or the plasticine, seductive candy aisle. Maybe you’re just hungry—or maybe you’ll be drawn in and driven to create. Personally, my muse is the bright yellow package, the one that says Fig Newtons. When opening a new box, I savor the rip of the microseal. It’s like opening a notebook for the first time, when all the pages are blank.

With this guide, you can plate anything from CVS aesthetically. Plating adds an ever–deepening richness to your life, like the umami flavor of the pepperonis in Lunchable pizzas. To demonstrate how to plate Fig Newtons, I’ve prepared a three–course meal that demonstrates many of the basics.  Follow these tips to avoid disgrace.

Course one: amuse bouche

An amuse bouche is a single, bite–sized starter (like a Bagel Bite) to tickle the palate before the main course. This amuse bouche is a Fig Newton with a Cool Whip quenelle, an apple wedge, and sprinkle of fruit punch Lifesaver dust.    

Use the rule of thirds to determine where to place the focal point of your dish. Stark white dishes provide a background that doesn’t distract from the food. They also denote minimalism, which can be achieved through serif fonts and only writing Yelp reviews in haiku. I sourced this plate from my roommate Ariana, who studied abroad in Sweden last semester and bought it from a Scandinavian store called Ikea.

Course two: entree

Photo: Julia Bell

For the main course, I paired tender, pan–seared Fig Newtons on top of crunchy rice snaps. They’re served here with caramelized figs and a snap pea puree. I added sliced radishes and foraged basil leaves for texture.

Calling food “foraged” adds a level of authenticity and ruggedness to the dish. Describing something as “artisanal” is overplayed, as is “bespoke,” which has been corporatized. “Foraged” is safe. If you didn’t rip it off a tree, can you really call it your own?

On the plate, the pea puree is the bold mistress—a saucy wink of color and delight. Contrasting colors—the subtle reds of the radish and figs opposing the green pea and basil—also make the plate more cohesive.  

Course three: dessert

Photo: Julia Bell

Dessert is an updated classic: chocolate–dipped Fig Newtons sprinkled with flaked gold leaf, served on a bed of crushed Oreo soil. It’s plated with dipped strawberries and a dash of Extra Dark Snack Pack.

I used gold leaf here to maintain the appearance of wealth and exclusivity. Gold denotes high class, which is why I write all my class notes on the back of Ferrero Rocher wrappers. Casually name–dropping celebrities with phrases like, “I was recently on the phone with Nabisco customer service,” also helps.

Gold flakes should be applied to foods with large, sterilized medical tweezers. If none are available, feel free to use a dollhouse salt shaker.

Using industry terms is very important when plating. If you ever do something as barbaric as describe a cheesecake as “soft” or “sweet,” I will lose it. If you describe cheesecake as having the texture of (FOR EXAMPLE!) satiny chamois, the doors of Yelp Elite will swing open for you.

I learned plating language from my internship last summer at Lunchables, and I’ll share a few industry secrets. Some words to keep in mind:

soil (noun): the crunchy undertexture of a dish

mouthfeel (noun): the sensations food produces in the mouth

microplaned (adj.): to describe a very thin shred. 

Ex. Microplaned Hot Cheetos topped the spaghetti bolognese.

quenelle (noun): in desserts—a single, decorative scoop. Typically ice cream, sorbet, creme fraiche, Yoplait, etc. 

soigne (adj.): well–dressed, elegant

pottage (noun): a very thick stew. 

Ex. The addition of Double Stuf Oreos turned the Extra Dark Snack Pack into a pottage.

tuile (noun): an arced baked wafer (for instance, an aged Pringle)

Armed with these tips, the support of your local Pinterest moms, and Lunchable Waffle Dunkers, you will find success while plating even the cheapest CVS purchases. (Sorry I referenced Lunchables so much in this article. I’m trying to get them to sponsor me.)

TL;DR: Fig Newtons … but then make it fashion. 

Price: $3.19 (Fig Newtons) + $7.99 (imitation gold leaf) + $1.24 (Cool Whip) + $0.00 (basil stolen from subletter) + $0.00 (Extra Dark Snack Pack and Oreos donated by photographer Virginia Rodowsky) + $1.49 (LifeSaver candies) + $? (produce not purchased from CVS but used as a pedantic device, receipt lost and amount not recorded) = $13.91


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