Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Decorating With Food

Food is wonderful! It smells good, it tastes delicious, it is attractive. It makes nice sizzling or crispy sounds. It feels lusciously creamy or munchy in the mouth. All together, when a plate is well-arranged with the meal, it is indeed, a three dimensional work of art!

But sometimes, food enters that other realm of art. That is, well, art. For some reason, the concept of using food to create arts and crafts is highly interesting to a kid. And adults have relied on this well-beloved tool for years to handle sessions of craft projects for kids in Sunday School classes, summer camp, grammar school, and at home in the kitchen. First, let’s consider the King of Decorative Food- Pasta.

I can’t believe that any kid has not gotten through childhood without creating a masterpiece of macaroni. I well remember my very first macaroni marvel. I was in the 5th or 6th grade when the teachers introduced the Christmas Gift project of the year. We were to bring in some kind of round carton, oatmeal containers being the most common. I brought an empty cardboard can of Jolly Time popcorn, which was about the size of a number 2 tin can. We glued elbow macaronis here and there about the container and then applied the ingredient that made the magic-- gold metallic spray paint. The idea was to fill them with candy and give them to a deserving old person. I reasoned that my grandma was old, so I gave mine to her.

The other glorious thing about macaroni is that it is jewelry-like. That is, it has holes you can string yarn through. A breakthrough came for me as a parent and Sunday School teacher when I learned how to color it with paste food color and isopropyl alcohol. I think the kids actually preferred Froot Loop necklaces, but at least they still had something to take home when we used noodles.

Potatoes are an under-rated resource for Decorating with Food. A potato half, a butter knife, poster paint and paper can help the creativity flow for a young artist. Admittedly, the butter knife was more of a hindrance than a steak knife would have been, but then again, I was only in second grade. In the meantime, I have learned that very respectable Asian artists make fish prints, in which they take a fish, dip it in paint, and press it on paper. And then sell it. Yes. At least with the potato, I carved a C for Carolyn, did a little work to clean it up, and then start printing.

A very beautiful craft project from church camp utilizing seeds and beans in a mosaic sort of way is one I remember well, mostly because I never got to finish mine. They ran out of most of the seed varieties before it was my turn. It was a rooster, cut out of corrugated cardboard with the different sections outlined, and written in each was the kind of seed or bean that needed to be glued in. It used lots of popcorn kernels. Which makes me think of the corn palace in the Midwest, created out of corncobs.

One crafty food project that I’m just as glad I never knew about when I was a kid is finger painting with pudding. That just seems too wrong, somehow…

Of course, once you get into high school, the whole emotion changes in Decorating with Food, as you know if you have ever been in the cafeteria during a food fight.

What are your favorite decorating moments in which food was the primary ingredient? It doesn’t count when the final aim is to eat the project!

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