Thursday, January 31, 2008

Equal measure

When my son was young, we loved flipping through the Archie McPhee catalog, because it was filled with just the wackiest toys and gizmos. Among the things we got from them was a jello mold in the shape of a human brain, along with a recipe that made a gelatin dessert eerily colored to resemble brain matter. (Yuck....but actually yum, because it tasted great.)

Well, we've moved on from Archie's (though you can still buy the brain mold), but I recently came across a grown-up version of Archie's called Fred & Friends. There were a couple of things that I wanted, though some of them perhaps a little too Archie McPhee, as it were. One of them was an ice mold that makes ice cubes that look like dentures. (See what I mean? Yuck.) Another was a spring-loaded spoon that is designed for food fights....though I can't see any parent in the world actually letting their kids have one of these.

But the object I liked the best because I could see myself actually buying it, was a measuring cup called Equal Measure. The clear glass measuring cup is marked with standard measures--cups and ounces on one side and milliliters on the other--but also includes real-world equivalents. For example: The 2-1/2-cup mark reads "As many grains of flour as people on the planet (6.8 billion)." And the 300-ml mark reads the "amount of honey made by a bee hive in a day." Fred's does not sell its products directly, but you can find local retail stores in their section called BUY.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Australian finger limes

Australian finger limes are just the coolest fruits. They are rainforest fruits that grow in certain subtropical regions on the Australian continent. They look like 3- to 5-inch-long sausages with a green-to-brown rind. Their flesh can range in color from pale green to pale pink to a deep red, depending on the variety.

But here's the cool part. When you cut them open, the individual flavor cells come out as separate jewel-like beads that look for all the world like caviar. And when you eat them, they "pop" in your mouth, also like caviar.

Unfortunately, the finger lime is not exported to this country. You can read about it on the website of the Australian Finger Lime Company. Or, if you're planning a trip to Australia, you can taste finger limes (and other native Australian foods) at Banrock Station Wine & Wetland Centre. Banrock Station is devoting much money and time to protecting wetlands worldwide. When you buy one of their wines, a certain portion of the proceeds goes toward funding their wetland conservation efforts.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The ultimate refrigerator cookie

If you've ever made a checkerboard refrigerator cookie, you will appreciate the ingenuity of this idea from Eva Funderburgh, a Seattle-based artist. She used a Play-Doh Fun Factory to extrude strips of colored dough that she then assembled into a log, which when cut crosswise produced a cookie with an image on it. OK, this is next to impossible to describe. You'll have to check out the series of photographs that she posted on Flickr for her Pixel Cookies.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fantastic foodscapes

Australia-based visual artist Carl Warner has done a series of what he calls "Foodscapes," which are photographs of what appear to be landscapes and house interiors, but are constructed entirely of food. The details are remarkable. To see Warner's Foodscapes, go to his website and click on the orange box to get to his collection of Fotographics. Then click on the 2nd portfolio, which is labeled (when you roll your cursor over it) Foodscapes.

My favorite shot is in the middle row on the far right. It's a kitchen scene in what is clearly the Italian countryside. The kitchen curtains are made of lasagna noodles. A big punchbowl is made from a tomato half with a macaroni ladle. The kitchen tablecloth looks to be made of a slice of cheese. Anyway, it's intriguing to see if you can identify all of the foods Warner has used to make these wonderful still-lifes. Check them out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

Established in 1998, the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra is a group of 11 musicians (plus 1 sound technician and 1 video artist) who put on concerts using instruments made of vegetables. My favorite vegetable was the recorder made from a carrot and a trumpet-like instrument concocted from a cucumber, a bell pepper and a piece of carrot (see the photo at left).

Watch the video below that shows how the musicians create instruments from vegetables, and what one of their concerts is like. Apparently at the end of every concert, the audience is served a soup made of the parts of the vegetables that got carved out when the instruments were made.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Potato mitts

These potato mitts crack me up. If I didn't live in a New York City apartment with limited storage space, I would buy a pair just to see if they worked (has anyone out there used them?).

The "Tater Mitts"--whose rough palms are used to "peel" potatoes--are sold in lots of housewares departments, but you can also buy them online at

Bonus Thought: These might work as skin sloughers in the shower. (This tip comes to you from Jo Ann Liguori of New York City.)