At the beginning of 2017 I took over the operation of a pay-what-you-can vegan lunch café here in the heart of meat-and-potatoes Midwest America. On December first, I gave myself a daily blogging challenge to write about this café, to tell its story, and maybe figure out a little of my own story in the process. This is Post #30.

Today I’ll finish up the last order of the year, party food for the 40th birthday of a friend of a friend. I’m thinking if it were my birthday, I’d want the food to look especially pretty, so I’m arranging it in my head as I prepare to go to the kitchen.

Making a pretty plate is one of my favorite parts of this job. On any given day I get two dozen tries to get it right. For a party platter, I just get one. So I’m giving it a lot of thought, scrolling around online, absorbing inspiration. Color, shape, juxtaposition.

There’s a reason people take pictures of their food, the Buddha bowl of colorful veggies, the latte art atop their cups. Pretty food delights. It’s a gift, and an invitation.

Plus it makes me happy to do it. And I think the happy comes through. It’s right there, wrapped up in the veggie rolls, tucked into the little taco cups.

It tastes good.