A Feast for the Eyes, Not the Tummy

Artist Herbert Hoover’s hard candy.

EdibleManhattan-2.5Herbert Hoover’s crackers fit inside a pack of cigarettes.

No, not the former president’s — the East Harlem-based visual artist’s. He’d been trying to figure out what he could sell in Art-o-Mats, the 82 re-outfitted cigarette vending machines around the country stocked with small objets d’art, each encased within an old cigarette box.

Inspiration struck at a gallery show where he saw Lost Host, a bronze sculpture of a loaf of bread — the gleaming slices inspired him to make the perfect trinket for a vending machine: a lost-cast mold from a piece of food.

He toyed with encasing various edibles that would burn to ashes in the kiln, leaving behind a shell into which molten metal could be poured and cooled, forming a perfect replica, with a shelf life no preservatives could hope to bestow. Via trial and error, Hoover quickly learned that snack foods with docking holes, “you know, the 13 holes on a cracker,” worked best.

Soon he was turning out pewter saltines, pewter ice cream sandwiches, and, once he got the hang of things, a pewter wishbone. The saltines (available for $5 in the Whitney Museum’s Art-o-Mat) became the number one best seller, and fans now send him photos of posed crackers in situ around the world.

Recently Hoover has been working on a series of copper- and brass-plated candy corn, but we’re partial to his fortune cookies, for which he’ll pen custom fortunes upon request. “Someone once asked me if I could put a ring inside. I said, ‘Sure, but you’ll never get it out.'” Like a diamond, these cookies are forever.

Photo courtesy of Herbert Hoover. 

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Jeanne Hodesh is a Brooklyn-based writer, eater, Greenmarket regular, and home cook. She grew up in the kitchen of her parent’s bed and breakfast on the Penobscot Bay in Maine where she squeezed fresh orange juice and fell in love with the rhythm of restaurants. An only child who used to amuse herself by telling tales, she always knew she wanted to write. She studied at Sarah Lawrence College, and upon graduation dove into the media-happy town that is New York City. After a year working for an art magazine company she realized people in the food industry have much more fun and always know where the parties are. She has written for Saveur, Edible Brooklyn, Edible Manhattan, Edilble East End, and Time Out New York. She started the e-newsletter Local Gourmands in the winter of 2008.