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Surreal Ideas Wanted


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My next cooking project is for Cleveland Area Mensa - I am the Hospitality Chair for the 2007 Regional Gathering to be held in about two months. The name of the event is "Heironymus Basch" - a Surreal Good Time.

For Saturday Lunch, I am planning a "Surreal Pasta Meal" - the strangest pasta shapes I can find, multicolored sauces, and square or cookie-cutter stampled meatballs.

Any suggestions on sources for unique pasta shapes? Any ideas to make this more surreal?

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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Here you go -- just the thing to make most of the male participants (and maybe some of the female ones) feel just a bit uncomfortable.

How about a couple of nice Alfredo sauces with food dyes?

Maybe you can offer a dish in honor of Heironymous Bosch's lesser-known sibling, Anonymous Bosch. (Sorry, I've been waiting for years to use this one.)

BTW, you'll probably get a larger response if you also add this thread to the Cooking forum.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Color shifts: Dye spaghetti vivid red and serve it with a white veal sauce

Anything dyed blue is always pretty unsettling - perhaps tortellini in a cream sauce, all of which would take blue dye.

Context shifts: Main course as dessert - If you have time to make your own pasta then make fruit filled ravioli [easier than folding lots of little belly-buttons] and have a red sauce from fruits and berries, possibly whipped into yoghourt.

Pasta shapes I find more challenging - what is surreal in that context? Apparently it's still possible to buy the "Play Doh Fun Factory" which might offer some options. Ikea sell pasta Moose heads!

Pictures of the final results are of course obligatory :smile:

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You could put the pasta (and meatballs if you wanted) into individual covered tarts. If there was no printed menu most people would think they were getting chicken pot pie. :biggrin:

The sauce could be a bright green herbed one . . .

Blue is startling. Moving a bit further away from traditional pasta and meatballs, a low flat bowl of clear turquoise colored "broth" made from gelatin and flavored with extracts or flavorings could hold wavy perciatelli strands topped with tiny pink fish cut-outs made from a dense seafood forcemeat . . .

Here you go -- just the thing to make most of the male participants (and maybe some of the female ones) feel just a bit uncomfortable.

Alex's idea could be taken further by use of gnocchi dough molded then gently poached into larger shapes. Three or four to fill a plate or perhaps one singular larger one.

:laugh:

But you'd really have to be sure of knowing your guest's reactions before trying this.

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How many people are we talking here? How adventurous are they willing to be?

For surreal I would go Dali-esque and hang pasta off of pasta drying trees with a pool of sauce below.

I would probably avoid the Andalousian Dog reference of having needles in sheep eyeballs however :raz:

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There's also a recipe for chocolate and nut "pepperoni" that I've used before on a surreal pizza (sweet short dough, raspberry jam, white choc "mozzarella" and the chocolate "pepperoni") that could be used for the meatballs in a sweet or sweet and savory version of spaghetti and meatballs.

My favorite table decoration is the orange with a small black face mask on it stabbed with a small knife hanging out of it dripping pomegranite juice blood.

:smile:

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To be a total nerd about this, from a strictly academic standpoint (sorry--I have a master's in art history :raz:, can't help it ), Bosch's work is surreal because of the subject matter, love of the grotesque, and juxtaposition of odd items (he also sometime plays with the size relationships of such items). The surreality is not because of color shifts and things we think of as surreal as related to the much later Surrealist movement in art (which may, in fact, have been influenced by Bosch) [bosch's dates, c. 1450-1516, vs. Dali's dates, 1904-1989, so you can see how different the two forms of "surreal" art would be.]

From Wikipedia (which, granted, is at best a source of very basic info): "Many of his works depict sin and human moral failings. Bosch used images of demons, half-human animals and machines to evoke fear and confusion to portray the evil of man. The works contain complex, highly original, imaginative, and dense use of symbolic figures and iconography, some of which was obscure even in his own time."

So, actually, Alex's pasta shape suggestion might be kind of perfect (if shocking), especially if you mix it in with those animal or dinosaur shaped pastas for kids. Toss it with braised chicken feet or tiny whole fish or something similarly grotesque but tasty (or even baby squid with all their tentacles, which more people would be familiar with).

Give people whole eggs (a symbol of the soul) to crack over their pasta (buy pasteurized eggs or coddle them if you're worried about food poisoning).

Have a whole roast suckling pig or whole grilled fish in the center of each table from which people are encouraged to carve their own meat to add to their pasta.

Serve the pasta in unusual vessels (one giant one for each table--then people have to serve themselves)--washtubs, buckets, old iron kitchen pots, ceramic flower pots without holes in the bottom, old spittoons, bedpans (just be sure they are sterilized!)

Basically think shocking, weird, grotesque.

There are lots of images of his paintings on the web. Try googling the following particularly weird ones for some inspiration (also add the word "detail" to your google search to get close ups of some of the details since the paintings are quite large and packed with detail):

The Last Judgement, The Stone Operation, Allegory of Gluttony and Lust, Triptych of Haywain

ETA--artist's dates

Edited by Anna Friedman Herlihy (log)
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I would probably avoid the Andalousian Dog reference of having needles in sheep eyeballs however  :raz:

oh god, that thing was horrible to watch, especially since i wasn't expecting it (i also have a fear of knives wielded nearby by anyone but myself, or when i see them cutting into fleshy things for seemingly no reason...)

i was kind of thinking of dali references as well, with the clocks and such.. i worry about the blue food dye and stuff; haven't they found that certain colors of food provoke certain bodily reactions (aka nausea/vomiting)? i think the color shift is a good idea, especially versus possibly inducing vomiting for all your guests...

otherwise, i third the sex-organ pasta shapes (i think they have breast-shaped pasta somewhere as well...) and all those crazy suggestions everyone's making (esp. Anna Friedman Herlihy's!) sound better than anything i could have thought up :smile:

and mmmm, squid tentacles... :biggrin:

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

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How fun is this?!

What about playing with scale? Huge 3 lb meatloaf sized 'meat balls' sitting in a tangle of the finest angel hair pasta you can get on the biggest platter you can find which resembles a plate?

The sauce would have slices of portabella in it sized to the same scale they'd be in proportion to regular sized meatballs.

Then you'd make some really dense parmesan crisps pretending to be shaved parmesan on top.

Warm weather abounds so I'm feeling there's lots of possibilities with aspic, agar or gelatin here...

How about cubes of jellied tomato consumme tossed with smaller gelatin based cubes of a basil based broth and cubes of fresh mozzerella (cut with a cookie cutter) as a riff on a Caprese salad? Looks like jello tastes like summer...

How about encasing one of your main dishes in clear aspic? I'd think seeing a traditional italian dish like sausages and peppers suspended in clear jelly would be very surreal.

What about a riff on veal marsala? I'm thinking big rectangular lasagne type pan with a layer of marsala based aspic, layer of panfried well seasoned veal to cover the aspic completely, then another layer of aspic. Lemon/capers would also work on something like this, just need to change the broth.

This sounds like a really fun game -- how surreal yet edible can you get. Look forward to seeing more ideas from others :)

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You know the other thing you could consider would be to do two separate tables, one representing Paradise and the other representing Hell as a riff on his Garden of Earthly delights.

Do white, happy type food on the one table (this would be the table that's likely hold dessert--think lychees and cut figs) and do the funky really surreal dark food on the Hell table (for some reason, a dish using blood sausage comes to mind).

Anyway, I'm sure you'll think of something -- have fun and definitely make sure you take pictures!!!

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Xiaolongbao dumplings filled with coloured aspic and pork! It is time consuming to make, perhaps just make enough as a garnish, 1 or 2 per per person.

When they cut into it, the coloured soup runs out of the dumpling. Colours would pop out if served on a plain white sauce. Like painting on a white canvas. Interactive and unexpected.

I have never tried this. :smile:

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This might be nice to use as placemats. I'm pretty sure Kinko's or someplace like that could enlarge it and adjust clarity (or however you say it :biggrin: ) then print on suitable paper.

"The Seven Deadly Sins" is the name of the painting. It would be interesting to have a seven-course meal with each course representing a sin . . . or alternately (and more easily) seven things on a large plate, each one metaphorically representing the sin from the painting, placed in the same order on the circular plate as it was painted on the circular painting . . .

This is getting pretty far away from the original question of spaghetti and meatballs, but it's fun to imagine, anyway. :wink:

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This might be nice to use as placemats. I'm pretty sure Kinko's or someplace like that could enlarge it and adjust clarity (or however you say it  :biggrin: ) then print on suitable paper.

"The Seven Deadly Sins" is the name of the painting. It would be interesting to have a seven-course meal with each course representing a sin . . . or alternately (and more easily) seven things on a large plate, each one  metaphorically representing the sin from the painting, placed in the same order on the circular plate as it was painted on the circular painting . . .

This is getting pretty far away from the original question of spaghetti and meatballs, but it's fun to imagine, anyway.  :wink:

How wonderful! I was just starting my planning for my Halloween dinner party, tentatively themed "The 7 Deadly Sins" (inspired by the Top Chef episode), done as a tasting menu. Would I be poaching this thread if I asked people for ideas or should I start a separate one?

My current ideas on the theme are:

* Anger: Shrimp Diablo or Berbere Chicken

* Greed: Oysters Rockefeller

* Gluttony: Pork Belly (of some sort)

* Sloth: Some sort of savory custard--I have a recipe for asparagus soup with Parmesan custard that might work

* Envy: Not sure, but something with green sauce

* Pride: Again, not positive, but I'm thinking something tallish (lamb lollipops) on a mirrored plate

* Lust: Something rich and creamy and chocolate with raspberry sauce

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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Thank you all for the feedback - keep those ideas coming!

Here's a little more info about the parameters of this task. I need to prepare as much of the food in advance as possible, so it should lend itself to freezing and reheating. I will not have an oven on site - just a jury-rigged kitchen of 18qt. roaster ovens and butane stoves for re-heating. I am also on a very tight budget, so cheapness is essential.

The meals are served buffet style and need to appeal to mainsteam appetites and be "family friendly" (though I am so tempted to throw in at least one box of the penis pasta!) since we will have kids and teens partaking. We expect 100-125 guests.

For Friday Night, I am doing "Gluttony" - which includes certain Cleveland items I always serve and work into my theme - pierogies (Ravioli on Steroids) and Chinese Baked Buns (which will be subtitled "Rocky Mountain Oysters). My husband is planning to make "Surreal Sausage" combining unexpected flavors (pork and sweet potato/yam a la Tampopo, and others), and I am also gonig to do an Oatmeal or Kasha Casserole of some sort ("Groat-esquerole"), and Peanut Butter Burgers.

For soups, I'm considering Chocolate Soup, "Squashed" Soup (made from winter squash) and Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Bean Soup), as well as The Concert in the Deviled Egg (Deviled Eggs for which I've got a surreal recipe).

I've already got plans for little clear plastic cups of blue jello, which gummi fish strategically placed in them, Irish Potato Candy and Chilled Berry Soup.

So - being limited by palatablility, budget and logistics - any more ideas? Keep 'em coming!

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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This will be a fun event!!!

For other inspiration--try any of of Bob Blumer's Surreal Gourmet Cookbooks--maybe the library has them--I picked one up at a thrift store and enjoyed reading it--and looking at the pictures--I sold it as i didn't really have any use for it.

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How wonderful!  I was just starting my planning for my Halloween dinner party, tentatively themed "The 7 Deadly Sins" (inspired by the Top Chef episode), done as a tasting menu.  Would I be poaching this thread if I asked people for ideas or should I start a separate one?

My current ideas on the theme are:

* Anger: Shrimp Diablo or Berbere Chicken

* Greed: Oysters Rockefeller

* Gluttony: Pork Belly (of some sort)

* Sloth: Some sort of savory custard--I have a recipe for asparagus soup with Parmesan custard that might work

* Envy: Not sure, but something with green sauce

* Pride: Again, not positive, but I'm thinking something tallish (lamb lollipops) on a mirrored plate

* Lust: Something rich and creamy and chocolate with raspberry sauce

Those ideas are really fun as is the concept. I hope you'll let us know how it proceeds. :smile:

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Spicy devilled eggs on a tray, with some in the arms of staggering sinners, (and others with a sinner's face buried in the filling), while a devil with a pitchfork gestures at them.

Next to them, mildly flavored devilled eggs, watched over by an angel figurine.

Rice pudding or pilaf made with forbidden (purplish black) rice.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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To be a total nerd about this, from a strictly academic standpoint (sorry--I have a master's in art history  :raz:, can't help it ), Bosch's work is surreal because of the subject matter, love of the grotesque, and juxtaposition of odd items (he also sometime plays with the size relationships of such items). The surreality is not because of color shifts and things we think of as surreal as related to the much later Surrealist movement in art (which may, in fact,  have been influenced by Bosch) [bosch's dates, c. 1450-1516, vs. Dali's dates, 1904-1989, so you can see how different the two forms of "surreal" art would be.]

From Wikipedia (which, granted, is at best a source of very basic info): "Many of his works depict sin and human moral failings. Bosch used images of demons, half-human animals and machines to evoke fear and confusion to portray the evil of man. The works contain complex, highly original, imaginative, and dense use of symbolic figures and iconography, some of which was obscure even in his own time."

So, actually, Alex's pasta shape suggestion might be kind of perfect (if shocking), especially if you mix it in with those animal or dinosaur shaped pastas for kids. Toss it with braised chicken feet or tiny whole fish or something similarly grotesque but tasty (or even baby squid with all their tentacles, which more people would be familiar with).

Give people whole eggs (a symbol of the soul) to crack over their pasta (buy pasteurized eggs or coddle them if you're worried about food poisoning).

Have a whole roast suckling pig or whole grilled fish in the center of each table from which people are encouraged to carve their own meat to add to their pasta.

Serve the pasta in unusual vessels (one giant one for each table--then people have to serve themselves)--washtubs, buckets, old iron kitchen pots, ceramic flower pots without holes in the bottom, old spittoons, bedpans (just be sure they are sterilized!)

Basically think shocking, weird, grotesque.

There are lots of images of his paintings on the web. Try googling the following particularly weird ones for some inspiration (also add the word "detail" to your google search to get close ups of some of the details since the paintings are quite large and packed with detail):

The Last Judgement, The Stone Operation, Allegory of Gluttony and Lust, Triptych of Haywain

This is a very useful perspective, especially if this is for a Mensa event. I would imagine that there will be folks there who know art history and would expect an accurate reference (in some form) to the artist.

Me, I esp. love the suggestions from kouign and jackal10. As an educated person with a but superficial knowledge of art history, I associate Bosch with grotesque images of hell.

Have fun.


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