Make lunch fun – and pretty – by turning a plate into a food art prompt!
It was some years ago: my friend and I were sitting in a coffee shop, and while she was still enjoying her dessert, I was already at the point of lamenting the demise of my chocolate cake. While we chatted, I started playing with the leftover sauce on my plate and, using a spoon, created a picture of a chocolate apple tree. It certainly wasn’t the masterpiece of my life, but if I measured my art by the pleasure it gave me, that little painting would rank pretty high!
Making food art always seemed like a lot of fun to me. I think its transitory nature appealed to me. It was easy not to take it very seriously and to enjoy the process instead: shaping a caterpillar with grapes, cutting stars out of a cheese brick and painting a cake. “It’s all going to be eaten, right? So if it doesn’t turn out, not a big deal!”
You won’t find me arranging impressive platters every day or even every week, but when I feel like playing with food, I find that it’s most fun not to wait for a special occasion and instead add a little festivity to a common day. A month or so ago, I felt like introducing Budster to the joy of creative food and made pictures on his plates for about three days in a row. Without any doubt, he got a kick out of “eating the smile” and “munching the moon”, and for a while our snacks got quite creative.
Apparently, playing with food is also good for picky eaters. Budster doesn’t have problems with trying new foods, but he has some dislikes, and he’s a lot more likely to give a try to a carrot if it’s a nose of a snowman.
Admittedly, it did take me about twice as long to prepare his snack, and that’s when the idea of having a food art prompt wheezed through my mind first. Then, at the toy store, I saw this plate. That was just what I needed! Of course, instead of buying it, I decided to make my own version because it seemed fun and thrifty.
How to Make a Food Face Plate
First, I thought of making a place mat with a face on it, then buying a transparent glass plate to put on top. This is still an idea you can use: print the design and slide it underneath a plate. But I decided to go further and draw the design on the back of the plate.
I picked up two transparent glass plates at IKEA for $0.99 each. I really liked that I could buy them individually instead of getting a full set, and the price was very fair.
As for the markers, I had a few left from different projects in the past that I wanted to try. Here is my swatch!
I tried a sharpie marker, an oil-based paint marker and a glass paint outliner.
A sharpie marker leaves a slightly faded line and washes off very easily. While it isn’t good for any permanent solutions, it may be fun if you want to have a little food decorating experiment and let kids draw their own prompts on the plate, then wash them off and have your plates back to normal.
An oil-based paint marker is the easiest to operate, and if you wash plates with a soft rag, it stays for a while. After about a week of daily use, however, the paint started chipping a little. But then again, maybe after a week, your kids would like to move onto a new design! To remove the paint marker off the plate completely, I used an abrasive sponge.
Now, a glass paint outliner is meant for painting on glass, so overall, it is the best option. It’s a little trickier to operate at first, so you may want to give it a try on a piece of paper. You could also squeeze some out and use it with a brush if it seems more comfortable. After you put the design onto the plate, you need to bake it in the oven at 160 degrees C for 40 minutes. It holds very well afterwards!
First, I drew my designs with a pencil, then photographed them and created clear outlines in Photoshop. Finally, I printed them again so that they would fit on my plates.
You can download the designs here or by clicking on the picture above. You can see that I created two faces thinking that it would be fun to have different templates on two plates. But after all was done, I realized that I liked the cheeky monkey on the left more and ended up putting this design on both of my plates. You’re welcome to use either or both! It’ll make me feel better if someone makes use of the more serious face on the right.
It’s very important to draw on the outside of the plate! While all the paints are marked non-toxic, none of them are food-grade, and therefore I wouldn’t risk using them on the inside of the plate. Because glass distorts the image a little, I cut the drawing out and taped it to the plate first. That’s how it looked: the plate is lying with its bottom up, and the picture is taped on the inside.
Following the lines, I repeated the design on two plates, then turned them around and – voilà!
Making Food Art
Now, that was fun! From that moment on, creating beautiful meals took no additional time at all.
Creating a variety of hairstyles was my favourite part, but other times I would also cover the eyes and the mouth. The face got a very different look then!
After we had a few dinners with our new food pals, I made an interesting observation: creating a little picture made our food not only more aesthetically appealing, but also more nutritious. When I looked at the food I served as a picture, I wanted to make it more colourful and interesting, and what’s more vibrant than fruits and vegetables? So I naturally added some of them to every meal.
Of course, we also made a few gorgeous fruit platters. I gave Budster cutout fruits, and he made some faces too before munching them up.
Have a fun meal!
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