Six Simple Steps to Assemble a Charcuterie Board and Organize Your Life At the Same Time


Image courtesy of TMB Studio

Grace Loonan, Freelance Editor

Charcuterie boards. You’ve probably seen these things on TikTok and Instagram or snacked on them at family gatherings. A charcuterie board, despite its fancy name, is simply an appetizer featuring a selection of preserved foods, such as meats, cheeses, and crackers. This dish is delicious, it’s easy to assemble, and it can serve as an analogy for life. All of your dreams, friends, challenges, commitments, and priorities can be arranged like the components of a charcuterie board in order to create a more balanced, fulfilling life. So how do you assemble the elements of a charcuterie board? Just follow these six steps, and you’ll have your appetizer, and your life, all figured out.

Step 1: The Board

The board is your foundation, what holds everything together. It’s a source of stability that you need to have before you can start adding anything else. There is no singular type of charcuterie board that must be used in this dish, and different people might prefer different styles. Some charcuterie boards are round with handles, others are squares of wood, and still others can be found in antique shops. In life, you need something or someone you can depend on, a source of stability that allows you to neatly arrange the other aspects of your life without everything falling apart. Just like with an actual board, this can look different for different people.

Step 2: Selecting Cheeses and Meats

Once you have your board, you’ll need to figure out the core parts of your arrangement: your cheeses and cured meats (if you are vegetarian, substitute the meats for fake meats or dips and spreads). These components of your board can be seen as the core things in your life that you want to focus your time and energy on. You want to figure out what these are before you add other ingredients. Think about the three most important things in your life right now (God, religion, service, family, friendships, mental health, etc.) — these are your cheeses. When building your charcuterie board, it’s beneficial to choose cheeses that are different shapes and sizes, as this improves the appearance of the arrangement. Similarly, it’s important to have variety in your life. Your meats represent your projects, the things you are working on or seek to accomplish. It helps to organize these things and break them up into sections, just as you would the salami or sausage on your board. The term charcuterie originally referred to an assortment of meats, and while charcuterie boards today are much more complex and contain many other ingredients besides meat, the meats you choose have a significant impact on the overall taste of your board. Choose meats that you like and that will work best with your board. In life, choose wisely the tasks that you spend the most time on — you should spend your time on things you are passionate about. Remember that your meats should not overpower your cheeses, just as your work should not control your life. 

It’s important to note that the representative concepts in these six steps can overlap, just like items on a charcuterie board can be mixed and stacked together. For example, your family could represent both the cheese and the board, and that is okay.

Step 3: Plates and Dishes

After you’ve picked out a few cheeses and meats to be your core ingredients, it’s time to add plates and dishes to your board. In life, these represent your schedule, your organized commitments. Make sure to choose plates and dishes that can adequately accommodate your cheeses and meats, as well as your fruits, which will be added in the next step. In life, make sure that your schedule includes the things you are passionate about or want to prioritize. The main advice I’ll give with this step is to keep it simple. Don’t add extra plates and dishes that are unnecessary or that don’t complement the ingredients on the board, as this will just make the arrangement appear cluttered. Similarly, don’t make your schedule busier than it needs to be by adding commitments that aren’t important or enjoyable to you.

Step 4: Adding Fruits

Now that you have your dishes and plates picked out, you can start adding fruit to the arrangement. The fruits represent the fun things in your life, the little bursts of color that make your days more interesting and enjoyable. These can be organized activities or time you take to practice self-love. Fruits are often overlooked or excluded from charcuterie boards, just as we often don’t carve out time in our days to care for and enjoy ourselves. However, it can be argued that fresh fruits are just as important to include in your board as the meats and cheeses. These ingredients should complement each other, since you don’t want the flavors on your board to clash. In life, if your meats (projects) don’t leave room for your fruits (self-care habits and recreation), you should rearrange your schedule to make more room for your fruits while still maintaining a focus on the projects and passions that give your life direction.

Step 5: Crackers

The crackers on your board represent the people you choose to surround yourself with. You may be wondering why this component of your charcuterie board wasn’t added earlier. It’s important to make sure that the people in your life support who you are and what you are passionate about, which is why you chose your cheeses and meats first. By having a clearer sense of who you are and what you want to do, you can start to figure out which relationships you want to strengthen in your life and which ones aren’t genuine or worth your time. It’s nice to surround yourself with a variety of different people and personalities, just as having crackers of different shapes, sizes, and colors makes a board appear more interesting and appetizing. Usually, you’ll have various groups of friends and people in your life, just as crackers are arranged in groups or stacks around the board. Different groups of people will complement different areas of your life, just as crackers go in different arrangements besides different meats and cheeses. Some crackers will pair well with the fruits you’ve picked out, and others won’t. Similarly, some people may share your enjoyment of a hobby or interest and some may not, and that’s ok.

Step 6: Arranging, Garnishing, and Filling In Spaces

Now that you have a strong foundation and you’ve filled your life with all of your priorities, passions, hobbies, and people that support you, it’s time to give back a little, make it look pretty, and fill in any bare spots. The little herb garnishes, the nuts, and the jams you add to your board represent the deeds you do for others. Just as adding these final ingredients finishes off a board so nicely, acting as a role model and leader, helping others, and just being a supportive friend or family member will add a nice touch to your life. Our lives are so intertwined in the lives of others, and by brightening someone else’s day, you can add a little brightness to your own. These deeds should not be overlooked, but they also shouldn’t cause you to lose sight of yourself and your personal priorities. Remember, it’s your life first, and you have a responsibility to care for yourself before you can care for anyone else.

Some Final Reminders

Remember that your life DOES NOT have to look pretty and polished all of the time. Charcuterie boards themselves are meant to be raw and fresh. In contrast to processed sandwiches, the ingredients of charcuterie boards are laid out transparently for all to see and admire. Also remember that you don’t have to cover every inch of your charcuterie board with food, just as you don’t need to schedule every minute of your life. It’s perfectly normal and very healthy to leave some bare spots, where you can just breathe and be grateful, without having to be anywhere or do anything. Finally, remember that you are human. You aren’t perfect, you can’t be everything, and there is only so much you can handle. If you try to add too much to your board, it won’t all fit. That said, really think about the things that you most want to include on your board. A good charcuterie board is well-balanced and filled with variety, flavor, and color. Most importantly, it should make you happy.