Welcome to Salad Brain Creativity

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

Welcome to Salad Brain, our fun exercises designed to stretch your mind, fire up your creative juices all while making a platter salad.  Yes, and feed you well!

Salad usually comes in a bowl. Why a platter?

The bowl is quite literally the black hole of design. It’s perfectly functional for an everyday tossed salad, but when you aim for something more, your thoughtfully chosen and carefully chopped ingredients sink into the depths. The bowl doesn’t care about your interesting salad idea; it’s more dump than design. Let’s face it, you can’t make a collage in a bowl.

Let’s consider the platter. Flat and shallow, platters can’t help but showcase the elements of design–color, texture, shape, size, and taste. The platter is your canvas for your perishable, consumable installation art. As the salad maker, you will experience a magical moment of everyday creativity. Intentionally putting together a salad on a platter requires that you pay attention to a process you might otherwise accomplish automatically, without great thought or creative engagement.

A platter salad also presents opportunities for social interaction. Set in the middle of the dinner table, your gorgeous edible centerpiece is the icebreaker that invites questions and sparks interaction. Gathered around the platter salad, guests become engaged with the design, the idea, the ingredients, the moment. To see is to think and wonder, and a salad on platter gets the wheels turning. Platter salads ignite great conversation.

Platter Salad Design Does Not Exist in Isolation.

Any kind of good design, including a salad, is a combination of logical problem-solving and gut feeling with no single correct result. Its useful beauty exists in the larger context of a meal, a time, and a place. These parameters are ever-changing with new versions, different seasons and occasions, and, of course, new ingredients ahead of you. Platter salads are vehicles for your own creative journey and vehicles that you can enjoy at mealtime.

Think of it this way:  Platter Salad hits all the buttons that lead to a joyful, rich. and healthy life. According to the many experts on creativity, thinking, happiness, and home cooking, the life-changing ideas behind Platter Salad Creativity will:

  • Develop your thinking and problem-solving skills.

  • Encourage curiosity and openness in everyday life.

  • Offer opportunity for hands-on creativity and release from fear of self-expression.

  • Improve the health of you and your family.

  • Bring a spark of joy, beauty, and happiness to you and others.

Sound good so far?

Consider the perspective of Josef Albers, the famous German-born Bauhaus color theorist, modern art educator, and artist whose colored squares hang in every major American art museum. Albers once said this about his squares, “I’m not paying homage to a square. It’s only the dish I serve my craziness about color in.”

So in the spirit of Mr. Albers, we are not paying homage to the platter. It is just the dish on which we serve our craziness about problem-solving, creativity, color, design, and taste.

So, how’s that for “why a platter?”

So, why a salad anyway?

Most everyone has some sort of institutional knowledge and personal history with salad. We probably all share a vision of it as some kind of combination of ingredients, typically fresh and/or cooked vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins and starches with a dressing. A salad can be warm or cold, sweet and/or savory.  Think of the huge range of beautiful building blocks ready for the taking. Many are waiting for you in your own pantry or refrigerator right now. For that reason, salad is a great medium for exploring creativity. There’s really nothing to be intimidated by here. The stakes to play are low. After all, it’s just a salad.

What is a Platter Salad Creativity Exercise?

Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Creativity needs a problem to solve, a need to fulfill. First, define your salad dilemma. What are your situational parameters that will necessarily guide your thinking and decision making? Start by running through some questions to narrow the focus, questions such as:

Who am I feeding?

What’s in the fridge?

When are we eating?

What’s in season?

What’s the theme of the meal that the salad fits into?

How much time do I have?

When it’s time to create your platter salad, ask yourself the next round of design questions like:

What ingredients will you use?

Which ingredient is the focal point?

How will you prepare, chop, and cook them?

What are the colors, shapes, and textures of your ingredients?

Which platter frames this salad the best?

What kind of dressing suits this salad and meal?

Make the Salad. Then, Evaluate.

What would you change and is there time to change it now?

What irritated you about the salad?

What did you particularly like and what surprised you?

What might you try next time?

Did you like it? Was it beautiful? Did is start an interesting conversation?

Think of your ingredients as collage elements with flavor!  Platter Salads are a great way to explore the basics of color theory.


Salad Brain Creativity can be a lifelong journey and practice. Keep noticing and trying. With a little experimentation and time, watch your skills improve and have fun doing it.

Follow Mindy on Instagram @hey.its.min for more platter salad ideas and be sure to #plattersalad to join the movement! Share your work, we want to see it!


The creative works of Salad Brainers!

Salad Brain Creativity Lab at Whole Foods

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