Pronounce it with me here: "shaa-koo-tuh-ree." 

This term, which originates from French cuisine, is derived from charcutier: a pork butcher. Before refrigeration was widely used as a means to store and preserve meat, these butchers were only allowed to sell cured meats to patrons. While pork certainly made its way to the table in the form of sausage and salami, butcher shops also offered pâté, pastes, and stuffed poultry. Eventually, the charcuterie was expanded to include preserved fruits, cheeses, and breads. Charcuterie is typically served atop an ornate wooden board, but some people choose to use plastic or glass serving platters instead. 

So why am I absolutely obsessed with charcuterie boards? Well, one look at an intricate, creative, and colorful charcuterie board should show you why. 

My personal favorite thing about charcuterie is that it doesn't have to include any particular element. Rather, charcuterie can be designed around a theme, event, or concept. Brunch? Movie night? Summer picnic? Chances are that there's a charcuterie for that.

So if you're as entranced with the brightness, freshness, and variety of charcuterie as I am, are you jumping with ideas for how to plan your own? Or are you thinking that charcuteries might not be your cup of tea? Either way, here are some things to think about before you run off to Trader Joe's to purchase all the components of your dream board. 

Pick a focusing event or theme for your board.

The timing of your event has a big influence on what kind of food might find its way on to your charcuterie board. While pickles are certainly a delicious addition to your charcuterie board, they might not be appropriate for a breakfast social. You might also want to consider colors and seasons for themes. A bright, summer lunch charcuterie might feature a checkered tablecloth, bright red tomatoes, ornately-stacked watermelon slices, lemon wedges, and fresh garden veggies aside a bright bowl of guacamole.

Decide how much food is adequate for your audience. 

How much cheese can people eat? That is a great question! For traditional charcuterie pairings (as an appetizer), three ounces of meat and cheese is recommended, along with three pieces of bread or crackers per guest. If you're using a charcuterie in lieu of a meal, consider serving around five ounces of meat and cheese per guest. 

For the more unconventional charcuterie options, like this beautiful and creative s'mores charcuterie board, consider how many items your guests can individually eat. That might mean a handful of fries and a burger/hotdog each, a couple handfuls of various chips for a movie-night-in board, or a (my personal favorite) bagel and toppings for a bagel-brunch board. 

Consider food allergies, food aversions, and food safety.  

It should be assumed that everything on the board will intermingle with other components. If someone in your party has an allergy, this has disastrous potential. To accommodate those with dietary needs, consider setting peanut butter, shellfish, and other common allergens away from the board. You might also want to consider how many options you want to provide for your vegan and vegetarian friends who probably won't be picking up a piece of salami any time soon. 

Having fun with it! 

This is the time to let your creative genius run wild! Here are some of my favorite charcuterie ideas:

Peaceful Afternoon Tea Charcuterie: Teapot & teacups, mixed tea varieties, sugar cubes, dish of cream, scones, tea cakes, and pastries

Ice Cream Sundae Charcuterie: Pints of ice cream, sprinkles, chocolate chips, hot fudge, caramel, whipped topping, chocolate chips, marshmallows, gummy bears, etc. 

Bagel Brunch Board: Bagels (plain, everything, cinnamon raisin, blueberry, chive...), cream cheese (plain and veggie), lox, dill, peanut butter, banana, jams and jellies, eggs, meats (bacon and sausage), Nutella, and assorted fruit