Bizarro Meal #1 🍭🍬❄️
Setting the table for a sugar fanatic
Last October, I took a 4-week class called “The Table as Canvas: Designing a Bizarro Dinner Party With Jen Monroe.” The course description states, “…the best dinner hosts are those who can marry the technical skills of being a chef with an artist’s fluidity and flair for adventure”. I am a decent and adventurous cook, and I love creating almost anything, so I was excited about this class. Over four nights, we talked about 1) how to find inspiration, 2) Research & Development, including testing and sourcing, 3) production and execution, and on the final and fourth night, we had “show & tell.”
For step 1, finding inspiration, we were asked to think about a food-related memory from our childhood and to look for ideas from favorite movies or stories. I picked the movie “Elf” with Will Farrell because my family watches it several times each holiday season, and there are MANY food-related scenes to adapt. If you have seen Elf, you can probably think of many yourself. Week 2 focused on R&D, which was a lot of fun. For my Elf idea, I needed to find things to support my ideas, including a railing, “World's Best Cup of Coffee” cups, flasks, jack-in-the-box, syrup, paper snowflakes, candy canes, candy corn, gum drops, multiple Etch-a-Sketches (to use as serving platters), and snow (lots of white cotton candy). It’s probably obvious that by this point, I was not going to attempt an entire “bizarro “ dinner party but only a bizarro dessert course.
"We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup." - Buddy (Elf Movie)
I had decided to use my entire dining room for dessert and have the rest of the dinner buffet-style on my kitchen counter. I am sure that if any of my relatives showed up as planned, they would have found this (as well as eating from an Etch-a-Sketch and drinking from a flask) quite strange, but thanks to a Covid case in a cousin, the “Elf Dessert Party” was only experienced by my immediate family.
So…if this whole activity happened last year, why am I sharing it now? First, because I wasn’t writing this newsletter at that time so wasn’t able to share the details, but secondly, I wanted to get you ready for my December 30th post, which will show you the outcome of this year’s theme, which is Winter Wonderland. I have been “sourcing” items for this dinner for the last twelve months. I found a full-size toboggan at a church rummage sale for $10 and recently found a vintage wooden set of skis with bamboo poles. Both of these will be used to serve food. Unlike last year, I am also going to incorporate the instructor’s suggestions to incorporate light effects. I am playing with the idea of creating an ice rink serving platter and deciding if there is any way to incorporate real snow without it all melting very quickly. One of my children had the idea that we should all try to eat with mittens, so maybe we will even try that. Since I still have a few weeks to finalize the details, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for white foods or desserts, drinks, and/or unusual ways to present the meal. Someone asked me why I am planning to do all this with so much else to finish up over the next few weeks. I guess the answer is that first, I enjoy it, and it allows me to try some pretty unusual things. Second, I like to surprise people and make meals more than just a time to eat food but an experience as well. Maybe I’ll be the only one who thinks this year’s Winter Wonderland theme is a good idea, but I’m sure I’ll find out either way :)
Sugar Skulls (little works of art)
Tea Eggs (when made well, these can be quite beautiful)
The Bizarro Dinner course on Atlas Obscura
A Brief History of Food as Art