We adore Halloween—in all its kitschy-spooky, party-centric, treat-filled glory—but the store’s selection of decorations . . . not so much. This year we’re ditching the mass-produced spiderwebs and candelabra and playing with our food. Yes, you read that correctly: we’ve taken a cue from Joost Elffers’s 1997 classic Play with Your Food and made these custom Halloween critters from common fall produce like gourds, pumpkins, squashes, and peppers.
First, we went on a little shopping trip. We’re lucky to have a bunch of great farmers’ markets in our area, but The Berry Patch in Stephentown, New York, had by far the coolest selection of funky pumpkins and outlandishly twisted and curved squashes and gourds, so our raw materials did a lot of the work for us.
Then we got to work on carving, following Joost’s recommendations for thinking of stems as noses, and letting odd shapes and wrinkles dictate the character of the critter. (We found paring knives, mini jack-o’-lantern saws, and grapefruit spoons to be the most useful tools for cutting and cleaning.) Once we got the basic carving done, we added embellishments for eyes, teeth, ears, horns, and any other weird and wacky combo we could come up with. Here is where you can really get creative, because the “rules” of Play with Your Food dictate that all elements must be organic and edible, and preferably easily found in your kitchen. So our bag of tricks (or treats?) ended up including:
- Seeds, nuts, dried beans, cloves, peppercorns, star anise, bits of sun-dried tomato, pomegranate seeds, and onion skin for eyes (and a few noses)
- Dried corn kernels, slivered almonds, and pinenuts for teeth
- Pear stems for legs
We’re pretty proud of our little Halloween mutants, and can’t wait to start making tablescapes and mantel decor with them. Would you try making some of these decorations for your next Halloween party?