Schoolhouse Rock was right. Three really is a magic number. It's the the father, the son, and the holy spirit. But it's also carrots, celery and onions. Lemon, olive oil and oregano. Tomatoes, garlic and basil. Every cuisine has as its foundation a trinity of flavors. The French use carrots, celery and onions as the elemental base of their stocks and sauces. Creole cooking uses green pepper, onion, and celery. The Chinese dig garlic, scallion and ginger. Thai brings together galangal (one of those exotic ingredients you'll probably have to fly to Thailand to find), kaffir lime (ditto), and lemongrass. The Greeks, the Indians, the Lebanese, Italians, they all have their trinities. But it doesn't stop there. What about Neopolitan? Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, the classic troika of ice cream. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are undeniably the threesome of the berry world. And let's not forget about plating, the art and science of putting food on a plate. When you plate a dish, the rule is three. Too many elements are confusing and off-putting. Too few don't entice.
And then there's chocolate cake. One could argue that the perfect dessert - a lone slice of chocolate cake - flies in the face of my well-constructed theory. But I offer this counterpoint: add the frosting, and you've got two elements. Add a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you've got yourself the holiest trinity of all.