On the Topic of Fake Food

So, you know how factory farmed food is full of genetically engineered organisms, petro-chemicals, and drugs? And how it’s then processed and de-natured to become packaged food, and how we then call that “fake food” (because it is)? This entry is not about that.

This entry is about fake food. As in, the kind that does not require quotation marks because it’s really truly not food. The kind of fake food that is often made of plastic by child slave labor in China of petro-chemicals and cancer-inducing dyes, which makes it slightly less appetizing and almost as healthy to eat as “fake food” from Micky D’s.

Only, this particular fake food isn’t from China (mostly) nor Micky D’s, though child slave labor may have been involved. If by “child slave labor” you mean an overly energetic almost-5-year-old who WOULD NOT SHUT UP until we handed him a ball of salt dough and told him FINE he could make some fake food too if he would just leave us alone.

Easy-peasy salt dough play food

It also contains nothing other than flour (conventionally grown and therefore most likely GMO and chemical-laden), salt (probably from child-slave-labor salt mines), water (treated with chlorine and flouride delivered to the faucet through plastic pipes), and acrylic paints that were probably from China and definitely made with artificial ingredients. Holy crap. I was feeling really good about our accomplishment until  I wrote that sentence. I think I’ll go cry now.

We did mix the salt dough in an old painted tin mixing bowl that belonged to Carey’s grandmother, so that part was good, right? Crap. The paint probably has lead in it.

I am so far off topic here.

What I mean to say is, two of my sons have a birthday this week. Monty is turning 12 and Everett is turning 5. Everett is getting a kitchen for his birthday, which is not quite the same as a pink suitcase since he doesn’t like pink any more, but at least he hasn’t decided yet that cooking is for girls. Seriously, who came up with that idea anyway? In my experience, girls like cooking about as much as boys like mowing the lawn which is to say some do some don’t, and sometimes the girls like mowing and the boys like cooking and geez, people, why do we keep getting hung up on gender issues? Just let the kids like what they like for goodness sake.

Wow, I had no idea a post about a child’s play food could become so politically charged. Please, people. TRY to stay on topic.

Anyway, so I found this amazing deal on a Pottery Barn Kids play kitchen for Everett on craigslist.

play kitchen

It has a working clock. And knobs that turn. AND TIMERS THAT TICK. It was a great deal. But it still kinda blew our little budget. So instead of going out and buying cheap slave-labor plastic food from China, we decided to make cheap sorta-slave-labor-free salt dough food at home. And since it turns out not to have been such a wonderfully ecologically and ethically sound choice (thanks for pointing that out, me), it’s a good thing it at least turned out to be cheap and easy.

Making Salt Dough Food

First, we mixed up a batch of salt dough. You can find a recipe pretty much anywhere online, but this is the one we used. Mostly because it was the first one to pop up on Google. That link just saved you two clicks and 17 key strokes. You’re welcome.

Above, you can see the probably-lead-paint-poisoned mixing bowl from Memaw’s estate, and the slaves hard at work making spaghetti and something Everett spent a great deal of time molding into a totally unrecognizable shape what is quite obviously, even without the explanation from Everett, a “slice of cheese with an eyeball.”

Here is some of the food before being baked:

salt dough food unpainted

Next we stuck it in the oven. You really need a visual on this one. It’s a complicated step and I wouldn’t want to leave you hanging:

Salt Dough Food in Oven

You can bake them at 200 degrees to get them dried out, and they’ll stay nice and bone white and not puff up too much. Or you can be impatient and bake them at 300 degrees and they’ll bake much faster and some will puff up and be unusable and they’ll all turn an odd shade of brown, but YOU’LL BE DONE FASTER.

Then you get to paint. Well, that part’s so obvious I’m not going to bother showing you a visual. Mostly because I forgot to take a photograph. Just try to get somewhere in the vicinity of this:

Easy-peasy salt dough play food

And that, my dear friends, is how you make  fake food that is only very very very slightly more humane, ethical, and environmentally sound than the equally cheap plastic food at Walmart.

11 responses to “On the Topic of Fake Food

  1. This post is AMAZING. It all wrapped up at the end too. You are an inspiring blogger. (Yes, I’ve been down on my writing tonight.) BUT SERIOUSLY GOOD JOB.

    No really, I chuckled several times here.

    • ROFL (not really, in fact I’m not even really laughing “out loud” but I’m chuckling REALLY HARD on the inside and wanted to differentiate that from the “slightly smirking with amusement” that is generally indicated by LOL). I have no idea whether you really mean this or whether you’re making fun of me for a rather rambling and disconnected post about something almost completely unrelated to anything I normally write about… but regardless, I appreciate the comment. You’re awesome. And I really mean that.

    • Wow, that’s pretty amazing. So realistic!

      Your comment made me realize I want to be more careful in flinging around “made in China…” because not everything made there is crap. Just the stuff that gets shipped to our Walmarts and discount clothes stores, and that’s mostly Walmart’s fault. There are actually many quality artisans and craftspeople in China, and of course it has a rich history of attention to beauty. It’s a shame our own culture’s hunger for cheap junk has created such a bad reputation for “from China.”

      Anyway, the food making was fun. I wish we hadn’t been in such a rush (trying to also make a pinata, clean the house, plan for birthdays the next weekend, go shopping for said birthdays, etc… all in one weekend) and could have enjoyed it more as a family project instead of a rush-rush-rush-get-it-done sorta project. Maybe next time. 🙂

      • Well, there is a negativity to “Made in China” that is perhaps more true than untrue. I wouldn’t worry about it? My keyboard is made in China, my water bottle is made in China, my calculator is made in China… Well, you get it. 😉

    • Thanks, Lisa. 🙂 They were fun and easy to make. If you can call something “fun” that involves quite so much letting kids play with paint, which is kind of the opposite of “fun.” But it *is* fun to *remember* having let them play with paint, now that the mess is in the distant past.

  2. Hey there!
    I am the one who distributed this site on Estonian forum you took time to log in and shared a post 🙂 Thank you, I found your groceries amazing! They are so good I would have been happy to play with them myself as a kid. I´ll definitely take time to make something like that with my little ones, even if they are little young to make something themselves yet, at least something that would vaguely remind of a vegetable 🙂 the twins are 1,5 years old and i bought them a play kitchen and they need groceries.

    • Hi Feryal!

      Thank you. 🙂 I couldn’t believe it when I woke up this morning and saw how many visits I’d had from Estonia.

      I’d love to see your salt dough groceries when you make them. My 5-year-old also made some things with the salt dough that did not look like vegetables! 🙂 He had fun, and it kept him busy while we made the rest of the food.

      You have your hands full with two toddlers! Goodness. Mine are spaced out–5, 9, and 12 years old now. Toddlers are hard. It gets easier as they get older. 🙂

      Thanks for posting, and for linking to me. And for the opportunity to learn more about Estonia.

  3. Pingback: What Is It To Forgive? ¶ Writer for Life·

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