The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has changed just so many things, including our relationship with food. From the super-stressful rush to lay in groceries at the beginning of the pandemic (remember all those empty supermarket selves?!) to the challenges of getting dinner on the table when you’re also overseeing distance learning, doing your own work, and, yeah, trying to keep your sanity, it’s not easy to find the time to focus on meals.
But a new, timely, and very Jewish book has some great suggestions on how to find the magic in even the simplest foods — with a lot of joy and not much prep.
Meshuggah Food Faces, by Jewish husband-and-wife team Bill and Claire Wurtzel, is an inspirational, photo-filled book of fun, Muppet-like faces created from basic foods, like bagels and yogurt. The title features the Hebrew and Yiddish word for crazy — meshuggah — and some of the edible projects feature some very Jewish faces, including Barbra Streisand and Albert Einstein.
The backstory about this book is just so charming: Bill, a retired, award-winning creative director and musician, has been making food art for Claire since the two married in 1961. For Claire, an educator, that tradition of having fun with food started in her youth, when “her mother made challah and shaped the extra dough into funny objects, like little birds or feet with cinnamon and raisins to look like dirt between the toes,” she says. This is their fourth book about food art.
The majority foods in Meshuggah Food Faces are easy to obtain from a regular grocery store or delivery service — lox, fruit, veggies, pita, hummus, cheese, matzah. Some funny twists also includes Ashkenazi staples like chopped liver, gefilte fish, and blintzes.
Now, growing up, you may have been told not to play with your food — and you might even catch yourself saying the same thing to your offspring! But these delightful food faces are also super-fun way to make foods that are normally less attractive to kids (hello, veggies!) more appealing and exciting. The thing I love about Bill’s food faces is how so many of them are easy to recreate, even with tiny hands. So get a plate of ingredients out from your fridge and create some funny food faces as a family!
As Claire says, “These hilarious dishes have kept us smiling for 59 years. And in this pandemic, laughter is the best medicine to ease our stress and anxiety.”
Even if you decide not to make your own food faces at home, just looking at these delightful faces will give you joy. Here are some highlights from Meshuggah Food Faces that are sure to put a smile on your face: