Tuesday, November 16, 2010
A house is more than a home at the Tulsa Sugar Art Show
One of the major foodie events of the season is the annual Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show,held in Tulsa this year and hosted by Kerry Vincent(who was kind enough to send me the lovely photos of some of the entries for this post),the regal face of Food Network Challenge when it comes to pastry related themes.
The Sugar Art Show is more than a place to show off some fancy cake work(altho there is plenty of that on display);it's an educational experience for those still learning the pastry art ropes as well as a meet and greet for professionals in the business.
Much like my beloved Food Network Challenge,there is one major theme based competition and this time out, the name of the game was Mansions and Monasteries. The Grand Prize winner for 2010 was Flora Aghababyan,who created the amazing confection that you see on the right.
Her cake was titled "Visions of Heaven" and is her take on a German monastery. Since donations for the charity Angel Flight are raised from the votes on favorite showpieces by visitors to the SAS,the moniker of the top winner was really very apropos,indeed.
With the show having only finished up by early last month,highlights from this event should be broadcast on a cable channel near you by 2011,hopefully sooner rather than later. As cake and pastry art programs become more of a staple on many a network,the Sugar Art Show is surely a sweet ready for prime time player in the game:
What particularly amused me about the Mansions and Monasteries motif was in imaging what sort of big house I would have selected to recreate this way. Naturally,many of my candidates would have come from movies or TV,with period pieces being strongly favored(I wouldn't rule out anything more contemporary,like Wayne Manor,for example).
The many adaptations of Pride and Prejudice have been fortunate in securing great houses and estates for location shooting,which makes it a plethora of plenty in this regard. Whether you prefer Keira Knightley or Jennifer Ehle as your Elizabeth Bennet,I'm sure that every Jane Austen fan would love to share a slice of Pemberley together:
A mansion or great house can be just as vital a character as any of the people within it's walls,either as a source of warmth and prosperity or a haven of personal horrors and misfortunes. Some of the more intimidating ones,such as Shirley Jackson's Hill House or Poe's infamous House of Usher,have a supernatural bent to them while others seem to be sinister reflections of the dark side of their owners.
One of the classic examples of the latter category is Manderley,from Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. While that challenge might seem daunting,much like the feelings that the second Mrs. De Winter had upon taking over her new home,but the end results would have been worth it(bonus points for adding a Mrs. Danvers figure in one of the windows):
The biggest house on display wasn't in the Mansion/Monastery competition,however. For the work shop event Halloween's Last Hurrah,a large haunted house was the focal point of that incredible set piece.
It was wooden based but completely covered in fondant and other decorative edible attachments,not to mention the yard and it's fearsomely flavorful occupants. I liked how approachable the entire set-up was,without coming across as childish or overly whimsical. The right balance was successfully struck.
Halloween's Last Hurrah put me in mind of two other frightfully friendly mansions from TV days of yore,the Addams Family residence and the home of the Munsters.
My personal preference would be 1313 Mockingbird Lane,a place that's a bit more down to earth than the Victorian anarchy of the Addams abode. While the Munsters' home is pretty run down to be sure,the welcome from it's uninhibited inhabitants would be a tad warmer there(especially if you stopped to say hello to Spot under the stairs):
Having a house as your cake construction theme may appear to be a relatively simple challenge,unlike having to use ghost stories,urban legends or Sex and the City 2 as your inspiration(SATC2 is actually the scariest one out of that bunch). Yet,it does pose it's own array of hurdles to overcome.
Whether you're dealing with a huge mansion or a standard two family dwelling,the devil is in the details. Folks can be true sticklers for exactness here,plus the tone of the whole project is just as important.
One thing that I've come to know about sugar artists is the care and craftsmanship that is part and parcel of their calling. That precise attention to the end result is what separates the casual cooks from the serious chefs and much like any other field of art,making something feel like home is the highest compliment that can be paid.
The Oklahoma Sugar Art Show is such a haven for those on both sides of the pastry counter and as welcoming as that funky little house on the block where everyone flocks to for fun and good time shared by all. The key ingredient in any recipe,after all,is a touch of love and sometimes blood is not as thick as sugar water:
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