Jewish Journal

Multi-function forms, friends, food

by Melanie Chartoff

October 19, 2011 | 1:55 pm

Recycled cork chair. Artist - Gabriel Wiese

As the world becomes shortage and space obsessed, I realize how ahead of the curve I’ve been in making myriad reuses of everything and everyone. Call me frugal/economical and/or exploitative/anal.

I reuse big tissue boxes as snowshoes for a friend’s kids (kids become two-pronged sources of love and laughs, lumbering around like “transformer bots”); I use their abandoned toy cars as conveyances for salt and pepper shakers glued on top, as “pass the salt” makes the dining room table a speedway.

My friends are all multi-use, recycled hyphenates, too.  First of all, they are all funny, talented, attractive, smart and fragrant—lightly scented room deodorizers, enhancing all environments—beyond being superb companions for all occasions.  I’ve recycled ex-boyfriends to become galpals’ husbands, ex managers into exercise mates, hence I get to have them in my life in a different form. Some of my friends are also my improv students with big careers in many stimulating fields—psychologists/authors, judge/writers, studio executive/performers, stage manager/dramaturgs, producer/parents.

Then there’s my new friend/student/inspiration—a multi-user after my own heart, Lois Lambert, who owns the Gallery of Functional Art at Bergamot Station in Los Angeles, and its Gallery Store full of innovative, original embodiments of genius, both practical and hilarious.

Like me, Lois is captivated by beautiful forms with functions and I can’t get out of her Gallery without getting gifts for some of my other multi-function friends. She seeks and presents the sleekest, latest in high design, lots made of recycled materials, most ecologically inclined, all beautiful and useful, in all price ranges.  I call her for mail orders—she discovers, shows, advises, sells, boxes and ships. Talk about one stop shopping!

I covet a set of gorgeous bowls and platters that look solid, but are bendable, made of soft resin that are food safe/decorative/gentle weapons—you can hurl them at people without damage. She has small graphic statues that write like charcoal. She has dress up purses made from soda pop-tops. She sells a modern outdoor grill, that comes with a clay planter top to convert it from patio eyesore to enhancement. She promotes lovely porcelain sculpted slippers that are also bottle openers. She has a sculpted period bust that conceals several USB ports for various devices. And for laughs/nostalgia, old-fashioned, hand held receivers in 50’s pastels that plug into Iphones, The jewelry lines she features offer wonderment as well as ornament and prove conversation pieces for all who wear them, perhaps giving them a personal charm they might not embody on their own.

So this season, inspired by Lois, I’m making multi-purpose, edible art, starting with my take on “The Scream” by Munch, made in squash by me, for Halloween. Nutritious/tasty/amusing/ creepy/easy, here’s how it’s done chez me.

3 medium butternut squash
3 cups cooked millet
2 lbs green beans
1 lb crookneck squash
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 clove diced shallot

Brown the shallots and garlic in the butter and oil in a roasting pan under the broiler. Pierce each squash laterally along their equators to help halve. Cook each separately on high in the microwave for four minutes. Cool, then cut each in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and strings, put a bit of the browned shallots and butter in the ‘mouth,’ sprinkle on some sea salt and place face down in the browned butter with shallots and garlic. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn face up and bake for a half hour. Meantime steam the green beans and squash. You can toss them in the pan remainders after you remove the squash for flavor.

Serve the squadron of screaming squash on a bed of the beans and sliced squash with millet mashed in the mouths (kids love that it looks like the faces are puking), and narrow round slices of yellow squash for eyes, pieces of green beans for eyebrows and pupils.

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Melanie Chartoff is an inventor—of stories and characters for the page, stage and screen—and the environment, having patented a graywater recycling device for home use...

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