One of my favorite books that I discovered recently and have been sharing with my students is Nina Laden’s Roberto Insect Architect (2000). As a boy Roberto, a termite, plays with the wood he is given to eat and creates towers. His parents scold him, but Roberto’s food play leads to discovering his passion for architecture. At the end of the story after Roberto has become famous, termite parents encourage their children to play with their food, so they can grow up to be like Roberto.
Since January I have been meeting with a group of homeschoolers two Fridays per month for a day of art activities. I haven’t read Roberto the Insect architect to this group, but of course kids and playing with food is an age old activity. We eat lunch together picnic style, and one of my students, Katie an 8 year old girl, always creates food sculptures with her lunch. Katie’s creations have come to be something that we all look forward to seeing each Friday Art day. I kept thinking I ought to photograph her sculptures, and finally at our last Friday meeting I did. It turned out to be a particularly rewarding sculpture session as she had some foil wrapped chocolates from Easter and some Annie’s Cheddar Bunny crackers.
Occasionally some of the other children also join in and make food sculptures, but mostly we’re all too hungry and busy devouring our lunches to take the time to savor the colors and shapes of our food! Chef’s know the appeal of a beautifully presented plate. Icons like Martha Stewart have made fortunes by being open to the possibilities of the decorative and artistic possibilities that food, plants, and flowers exude. And of course one of my all time favorite books is Food Play by Joost Elffers and Saxton Freymann (2006) with its creative use of the the shapes of the veggies and their stems for things like noses or squinched up facial expressions.
We meet again on May 4th, and I think we’ll break for lunch a few minutes early so we can all create a food sculpture and celebrate Katie for inspiring us to think outside the lunch box!