I’m going to sound a little crazy to some people, but bear with me. Throughout this week I want you to play with your food. “Play with our food? Aren’t we taught NOT to play with our food? Shouldn’t we be civilized adults and eat our food rather than playing with it?” Sometimes, yes. But this week, every chance you get, I want you to play with your food in some way. In whatever way comes to you in the moment.
Why should we play with our food?
The whole idea behind doing this, is to loosen up and have some fun.
Playing in general allows our creativity to flow through more freely. Giving ourselves permission to stop “adulting”, for even a few minutes, is a great stress reliever. This also gives us the opportunity to laugh. When we do something silly, like blowing bubbles in our drink, we laugh at ourselves and we make others laugh.
Displaying our food in a way that isn’t common surprises people. It can snap them out of their automatic thoughts for a moment. It’s also a good conversation starter.
Playing games with food gives a dinner party a little twist. If you have a group that you get together with and eat regularly, try one of the games below. It will be a little different than just sitting around a table and eating.
Playing with your food, and using all of your senses when you eat, has the added benefit of making you more mindful of what you’re eating and what you are doing while you’re eating.
So many of us rush from one thing to the next without looking up in between. We often eat our meals on the go, or worse, while still working. Make it a point this week to actually sit down and eat your meals. Step away from your desk or office. Even if you just go down the hall, or out to your car for your lunch break.
Use all five of your senses while enjoying your meals. Smell the food you are getting ready to eat. Listen to the crunch as you bite into it, or the sounds that are around you as you’re eating. Feel the texture of the food in your mouth. Or, go deeper and feel how your body reacts to what you’re eating. We often know if we’re eating something that isn’t great for us by how our body responds.
Look at the colors and textures of the foods you’re eating, how they are presented. Eat slowly and take the time to taste each bite that you take. Chew slowly and savor whatever your eating. Even if you’re eating a piece of toast, or a pack of peanut butter crackers, take the time to enjoy what you’re eating and to be present in the moment while you’re eating it.
“Food is not just eating energy. It is an experience.” – Guy Fieri
How can I play with my food?
1) Display your food in an unusual way.
Instead of serving your vegetables on a round platter, with the dip in the middle, try stacking the veggies in a creative way. Give each person their own mason jar with a portion of veggies inside and dip already included. Make a picture out of the different veggies you’re using. If you’re serving sandwiches, stack them so that they make a smiley face or a heart. Cut them so that they are in heart shapes, or stars. Make a display that encourages guests to play with their food as well.
2) Have an eating contest with your friends and family, to see who can eat the most.
Have a pie eating contest, a hot dog eating contest, or even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich eating contest. I don’t necessarily recommend eating like this all the time, but every so often it can be fun. You could make trophies for the winner and everything.
3) Do a food eating challenge; either yourself or with others.
Similar to what they do on Man V. Food on the Food Network. You can either go to a restaurant, if there is one near you, or create your own. Again, not an everyday thing to do, but fun occasionally.
4) Make a picture with the ketchup and mustard as you put it on your burger or sandwich.
Make a smiley face, a lightening bolt, a question mark. If you’re serving burgers to other people, you could spell something out by putting a different letter on each burger on the platter. If you’re serving one burger to someone, leave the top bun off and draw a little picture for them to see.
5) Drag your fork through your food and swirl it around and around.
This can be done with things like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, anything softer. You can take melted peanut butter, caramel, or anything that you like, and drizzle it over your brownie mix right before you put it in the over to bake. Then you take a fork and drag it lightly through the mixture to swirl it together; or make a shape. This is also fun to do with ice cream. Put your ice cream in a bowl, add your toppings, and then stir and stir until it’s all mixed up. It changes the experience of eating the ice cream. Sometimes I like mine like this, and then sometimes I like to pick and choose each bite. It depends on the day.
6) Blow bubbles in your drink.
Get a straw (preferably a reusable one), put it in your drink, and start blowing those bubbles. Sometimes I try to see how big I can get the bubble without popping it.
7) Cut your fruit and vegetables into interesting shapes.
Who says you have to cut your vegetables in straight lines? Yes, it’s the easiest way most times, but mix it up occasionally. It will make your salad, or your platter, look fun and interesting.
8) See how tall you can make a sandwich and then smoosh it down to fit it in your mouth.
9) Lay your French fries, donuts, or whatever, out to make a picture or a pattern.
10) Decorate your own cake; with or without a pattern.
Write words on it. Draw a picture with the icing. Add little edible things onto the top of it. (Like the veggies pictured above.) Get two different kinds of icing and swirl them together somehow.
11) Challenge yourself to try new foods.
When you go to a restaurant, try something that you’ve never had before. If you’re cooking at home, try a new spice or a new dish. Order snacks from other countries and try them. Watch a few of Brandon Farris’ videos of him trying new foods for inspiration.
You could even make a game of it. Get a few people together, gather some things that you all haven’t tried yet, and put them out on the table. Write each thing on a separate card, fold it, and place it in a big bowl. Each person takes turns drawing a card, and trying the food that is written on the card they chose. OR give a serving of each food to every person; so that everyone has the same things. Then you all eat the same food, at the same time. This way you get to see everyone’s reaction to each specific thing and everyone there gets to try everything. Which way you play the game depends on how adventurous you and your friends are and how much time you have.
12) Do an “iron gut” challenge.
They used to do these at youth camps I went to. They would get a completely random set of ingredients, mix it all together, and then see if anyone was willing to eat it. All of the stuff included was already cooked; no raw eggs or anything that might make you sick. For example, chocolate pudding, cheese, peanut butter crackers, and clam juice. The crazier the better. Just go through the grocery store and pick up random things.
This one can be made into a game as well. Label the ingredients A-Z, or numerically, and set them out on the counter or a table. Make a bunch of cards up with different combinations: “A, F, M, and Z”, “T, G, K, and L”, etc. Each person takes a turn drawing a card, making the mixture on the card, and eating it.
OR Make cards with each person’s name on a different card and put them in a big bowl. Each person takes a turn making a mixture with 5 ingredients that they choose. When they are finished, they draw a card from the bowl, and the person’s name that they draw has to eat the mixture. Even more fun if the person made something really gross thinking someone else would be eating it, and they draw their own name.
13) Write an encouraging note on a banana.
If you gently press down onto a banana peel, you can write someone, and/or yourself, a happy little note. “I love you”, “Have a good day”, “I’m bananas for you”, etc. I wouldn’t do this until the night before, or the morning before it was going to be eaten. Be sure not to press too hard or you can press through the peeling.
14) Try using chopsticks, or a utensil that you haven’t before.
15) When your mixing something, use your hands instead of a utensil.
Get in there and really squish it all together. Just make sure you have a towel nearby, or your next to the sink. I made the mistake one day of doing this across the kitchen from my sink. I didn’t have a towel or anything to wipe my hands on, so I had to hurry over to the sink. There was a trail that fell off of my hands along the way.
16) Try making up your own recipe.
See what you have available already (without going to the store) and make something out of it. Or see what leftovers you have and make something out of them.
One night I didn’t want to go out, but I wanted something different. I looked around the kitchen and came up with this: Plain spaghetti noodles, baked beans (I used leftover Bush’s baked beans that we had), and a little bit of sour cream (that was about to expire and I didn’t want to waste). I cooked the noodles, drained the water off, and put them on a plate. Heated the beans and put them on the top of the noodles. I added my sour cream, stirred it all together, and viola, dinner. It’s really good. Random, but good. I’ve had it a few other times since that night.
A leftover concoction that I came up with: black beans with chili powder sprinkled on them, shredded cheese, and a little sour cream. Mix it all together and eat with tortilla chips.
Nothing that is majorly impressive. I won’t be beating Bobby Flay with any of these recipes. But they were a nice, quick, different little meal. They allowed me to express my creativity in the kitchen, while still saving money.
The whole point is to be creative with what you have and try something new.
17) Try to recreate a recipe that you love.
If there is a dish that you love at a restaurant, try figuring out what is in it and recreating it. Some restaurants will give you the recipe, but most won’t. Proprietary secrets and all. Google the dish, look on Pinterest for it, or just make it up as you go. See how close you can get to the original. You may not make it exactly, but you can make a different, yummy meal in the process.
If you can’t bring yourself to play with your food, or if you want to mix things up a little…….Try this little game.
You can play by yourself or with others, with meals you’re cooking or eating out:
Write out on cards what you are going to eat for dinners this week, or 5 places that you would like to have dinner this week, or a mixture of both. 1 dinner on each card and/or 1 restaurant/type of restaurant on each card. Fold them up and put them in a little jar. Each night, draw out one of the little cards and have that for dinner, or go to that place for dinner.
For example: Your 5 cards could be – Chicken Casserole, Mexican Food, Chinese, Pizza, and Seafood. You would write each of these choices out on a card, fold the cards up and place them in a jar or bowl, then draw one out each evening.
You could always do more than 5. I’ve seen some people do a card for each day of the month. Then they draw cards, and play the game, for the entire month. Maybe even throw a new recipe in the mix or try a new restaurant in town.
Not only does this alleviate the decision-making process each night, it also teaches us to be more flexible.
How ever you choose to play with your food, have fun.
Life can be stressful and there are enough things to be serious about each day. Give yourself permission to loosen up this week, make yourself smile, and make others smile in the process.
“Never be a food snob. Learn from everyone you meet: the fish guy at your market, the lady at the local diner, farmers, cheese makers. Ask questions, try everything, and eat up!” – Rachael Ray