Sunday, June 24, 2007

Crazy Crop

The 1980s are considered the golden age of plush anthropomorphic food. This decade brought us not only the Del Monte Country Yumkins and the Nestle Morsel Family, but also the extensive Hallmark Crazy Crop collection. In 1984 Hallmark created their own line of stuffed fruits and vegetables, no doubt in response to the Yumkins; clearly a market existed for fruits and vegetables with eyes. This collection featured characters with expressive faces made from smooth cotton as opposed to plush “fur.” Each character was named (Pearl E. Onion, DeeDee DePear, Ronald McMushroom, Betty Beet, etc.) and had a hang-tag gift card with a phrase like “You’re un-beet-able!” or “You’re peachy keen!”

Vegetables included: chili pepper, large onion, celery, cucumber

small onion
Fruits included: pear

Hallmark even produced a Springbok puzzle featuring the Crazy Crop gang frolicking in a fruit crate:

This puzzle is interesting as it includes many variations on the commercially available characters with different facial expressions (click on the photo for a larger view to really appreciate their expressions). Other characters include an eggplant, small corn, potato, tomato, carrots, asparagus, a variety of onions, sweet potato, grapes, bananas, a watermelon, and a small orange unidentifiable fruit/vegetable in the lower left corner happily hugging itself.

At first glance, the range of Crazy Crop species is very broad, but on closer inspection two key groups are missing. Where are the cruciferous vegetables? Were broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage not invited? What about legumes? Are the peas and beans in their own clique? Or perhaps these vegetables were too busy fighting diseases with their phytochemicals and fiber to join in the fun.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Super-Size Food with Eyes

If you’re ever in Schenectady, New York be sure to stop by Nick’s Cafe on Broadway for some great diner food made even better by the presence of two larger-than-life food with eyes mascots guarding the door. I drove past this nondescript building in a rundown part of Schenectady countless times without ever noticing Nick’s Café.

Then one day enormous hotdog and French fry cone statues appeared outside.

My interest was immediately piqued, but due to rather limited hours of operation I never made it there. Last week on a day off from work, I made it my mission to explore Nick’s Café. While the statues were the major draw, I was delighted to find an honest-to-goodness vintage diner inside complete with red leather counter stools and a quilted stainless steel backsplash behind the grill area. I instantly realized I had been missing out on something great and was thankful to the food with eyes for drawing me in. I tried the classic burger and fries duo and was most impressed – nothing frozen here, just hand-formed patties and hand-cut fries.

Other people have characterized the hotdog and French fry pair as demented and scary. I think that's harsh as it appears the French fry cone suffers from a facial birth defect, although the hotdog does seem to be applying the ketchup a bit too enthusiastically.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bowing Bananas and Cute Cukes

If you haven’t been to Curly Wurly lately, then check out the latest posts on some fabulous food with eyes cookbooks! Carnation's Easy Does It Cookbook boasts cute cucumbers, disagreeable strawberries, and a creepy ice cream cone man. Bananas Take a Bow… features bananas and banana-containing foods performing for a captive audience. Banana Frozen Desserts and Serve Bananas in “Latest Style” sport even more anthropomorphic bananas including a fetching banana lass. Be sure to click on all the enlargements to fully appreciate the delightful drawings. While this doesn't hold a candle to the Seussesque bananas referred to above, I'm inspired to share my own anthropomorphic banana creation from 1985:

This unnamed and legless banana was created with the most advanced technology of the day: the Macintosh 128K and ImageWriter using the powerful MacPaint software.