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Antidote to the Holidays - "Weird Theme" suggestions requested

I must be really bored with food right now. Or maybe it's all the turkey we've been eating.

Between the great American Turkey Feast, our family's upcoming Christmas, and New Year's, I will be dealing with a lot of food I could make in my sleep. Not that I don't like it, but it gets a little, well, predictable.

I am looking for some "theme" suggestions from the boards so I at least have an early January dinner party to plan as an antidote to all the rote.

Last year, I convinced the Hub to have us host an All Molded Food party. Triple-tiered/triple-meat meatloaf, piped-into-a-spiral-and-baked cheesy potato puree, salmon in aspic with all the floaty flower-shaped garnishes in the gel, jello molds - you get the picture. It was wonderfully surreal, very Gourmet circa 1952, and I was completely safe from repeating myself as far as menu went.

It was so fun, that I want to do another sort-of-surreal dinner again. Wasn't it Alfred Hitchcock who hosted a dinner where all the food was dyed blue, just to skew the guests' perception of the food?

Do any of you have a twisted sense of humor with food and have a theme suggestion? Just to be clear: as much as I like high-octane punch and some grilled seafood, I am not looking for a Caribbean night, or any of the "usual." My hope is a high-concept set of foods that are 1) good to eat, i.e. wil not make most guests gag; 2) conform to the theme, and 3)have the added bonus of not being what people would normally get their hands on at a dinner/buffet.

Maybe a tall order, but there must be a bunch of you out there with odd fantasy meals. I'd welcome your input. It will get me through the season.

I appreciate it.

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  1. Pick a color. Every food made has to be prepared so that it's "naturally" that color. No food coloring. So green would get you salads, veggies, possibly some kind of green curry...

    1. Street food from around the world. Everything has to be something you would buy on the street in some major city.

      1. Good-things-on-a-stick party. Drinks: bloody marys, martinis w/ olive and toothpick... Appetizers: satay, anything on a toothpick, etc. Main course: kebabs Dessert: smores, ice cream bars, etc.

        Added bonuses: 1) no utensils to wash and 2) your guests will be amazed by your hip awareness of a new food trend

        1. Pick a letter. Serve foods that begin with it. Or foods that end with it. Or foods that do not include said letter. Challenge guests to figure out what the connection is between all your dishes served.

          1. Trompe l'oeil food party. Every dish looks like something that it's not. i.e. burrata and golden beet slices = sunny side up eggs with proscuitto "bacon" or some kind of wild rice/lentil side dish molded into a turkey, cupcakes that look like sushi for dessert or ??? Your challenge is to dream them up and impress your guests.

            3 Replies
            1. re: amandine

              Love the tromp l'oeil! Fits with my self-imposed surrealist need!

              Great - keep 'em coming!

              1. re: amandine

                Another tromp l'oeil suggestion - a "pizza" made with brownie batter in a pizza pan, with white chocolate for mozzarella, and dark chocolate and nuts for the toppings.

                1. re: amandine

                  Trompe l'oeil dessert suggestion... slice pound cake into 1/2 inch thick matchsticks, toast until golden brown, serve in a french fry container with a side of raspberry coulis as your "ketchup"

                2. I went to a party where the host provided everyone with plums and recipes for dishes that featured plums. It was sort of like Iron Chef. You could pick one ingredient and ask everyone to make dishes with that ingredient. I have a yearly gathering after the holidays and have considered choosing lemon a my theme. It is one of my favorite flavors and it is light compared to all the comfort food of the holidays.

                  1. I think I should clarify: I will be making all of the food. This wil not be a pot luck of any sort. The menu will be of our making alone, for consistency. I need a menu for me, not to disseminate to my guests.

                    Controlling, maybe. But it saves everyone else on bring-alongs!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cayjohan

                      Oops, sorry. You're not controlling, if just sounds like you have a lot of fun with what you do.

                    2. Fondue - you can have cheese, boiling water, hot oil, and chocolate for dessert with literally dozens of things to dunk!

                      1. I have been brainstorming and the one theme keeps popping into my head, but I can't get past just a vague concept.

                        I keep thinking about unusual fusion. There is a restaurant in Pasadena, CA, that is Thai and Italian. Not really seen all over, but it works somehow. (Like both cuisines have noodle/pasta dishes. They do curry with linguini pasta. Mozzarella sticks, but instead of breadded cheese, it's wrapped in an egg roll wrapper, pizza's topped with Thai inspired ingredients, etc.)

                        So I was thinking something similar, like Ethiopian/...?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: alliebear

                          Did Ethiopian for my in-laws...they were convinced I poisoned them.

                          This is for like-minded people (relative to us)...give us your wackiest!

                          Post your oddest fantasy meal...we may well make it for our friends.

                          1. re: cayjohan

                            Yeah. Ethiopian isn't for everyone.

                            Another idea I just had (don't knwo how creative/offbeat it is) is grown-up kiddie food.

                            Kids' favorites like peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, chicken fingers, chocolate milk, applesauce, etc, with a sophisticated/adult twist.

                            Instead of chicken fingers/nuggets, use a different type of meat/poultry. (duck? I don't know. Never made duck nuggets or anything. Just throwing it out there)

                            Chocolate milk martini's.

                            Peanut butter and jelly icecream sandwiches. (PB cookie, strawberry jam ice cream)

                            Apple sauce "bellinnis"

                            Eh. This actually is starting to sound like it could be a disaster as well.

                        2. How about an everything is opposite theme? Everything savory like apps and entrees can be sweet and the dessert can be savory. Heck you could have soup disguised as cocktails.

                          1. Last Theme Dinner we did was...well, the apps were liver pate extruded onto crackers in suggestive lumps, the cocktails were vodka and prune juice, the soup was a lentil/spinach purée, the mains featured mashed yams and individual torpedo-shaped, corn-studded meat loaves. And we served Chardonnay in specimen cups, and had rolls of TP by way of napkins. The real joke was that everything was delicious. That was four years ago, and we're still famous for it.

                            Just turn your imagination loose, I suppose is the lesson here...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Bless you! I've been trying to sell the Hub on the, well, scatological theme for some time.I think I will have a bit more luck when he learns that I'm not the only loony!

                              Love your suggestions; definitely on my short list!

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                High-octane homemade hard apple cider served in urine specimen flasks...

                              2. A white trash buffet(there are a couple of cookbooks out there that can help with ideas)--this can be quite interesting and sometimes delicious (spray cheese on ritz crackers, "mock" crab dip...)

                                A "location" theme--all fair/carnival food, for example. Corndogs, burgers, slaw, cotton candy/candied apples.

                                Or "ballpark"--roasted salted in-the-shell peanuts, dogs, beer, crackerjacks, icecream bars (homemade, these can be divine)

                                Or "school lunch"--little half pints of chocolate and white milk, wax beans, salisbury steak, pizza (an smattering of each "hot lunch" item of the week.

                                I could go on...

                                1. Three books that might inspire:
                                  "Play with your Food" by Elffers & Freymann
                                  "How to Play with your Food" by Penn & Teller (yes, them)
                                  "The Secret Life of Food" by Crespo.
                                  All 3 full of trompe & tricks, cute as hell. some clearly Art. Also, there's a fellow called the Surreal Gourmet, real name Bob Blumen, Blumer--I'm sure you could find him on the Internet.
                                  Anthropomorphic theme--everything has a face.
                                  Actually auction the food, roulette, gambling--but everthing would get cold.
                                  Make everything look the same but taste different (let us know how you do this!)
                                  Foods from songs--found thrill/Blueberry Hill, Mairsey doats/liddle sharksy doysters, etc.
                                  Pick a novel/movie--only foods within the book or flick.
                                  Find art prints of food, recreate dishes, display with prints. (Will need props, plates, flowers probably, to do this.)
                                  Let us know how it goes!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: blue room

                                    You could also try haberdashery--everything looks like a hat,(hats have come in many shapes over the years, still do!) or a tie, or a wallet..
                                    Or a dollhouse theme--everthing is a piece of furniture or rug or bathtub or door..

                                    1. re: morebubbles

                                      Bob Blumer (also known as the Surreal Gourmet) has some great ideas. Check out his website at http://www.surrealgourmet.com/

                                      His Shrimps on a Barbie is the stuff of legends!

                                    2. Since it's the new year, how about "baby" food? Not real baby food but small versions of the big thing, like baby corn, those little colored peppers, cornish game hens (or even eggs?), mini-quiches, etc.

                                      1. It really depands on how twisted you want it to be and your friends' sense of humor. How about a twinkie party? Serve twinkies, vienna sausage, spam and pineapple kabobs, those marshmallow snowballs covered with coconut, etc, and wash it all down with Asti Spumante and Martini and Rossi on the Rocks or Dubonnet --say yes! 70's surrealism indeed!

                                        1. This is why I love this site - similarly "bent" people. I am getting so many interesting ideas from all of you that 2007 entertaining may be a Greatest Hits from this one post! Baby food? Great! Things that look like hats? Wow! Shrimps on a Barbie and kiddie-food...soooo glad to know there are crazies like us out there! :)

                                          I am saving everything suggested. What fun.

                                          I'm curious: who has (knowingly) done some "weird theme," and how was it received (okay, Will Owen - I know you have - cracked me up!). Did you tailor the guest list accordingly? Were there any offended attendees? Am I missing some hosting etiquette in forging ahead on this path? Advice?

                                          We so often get so serious with our daubes and our croquettes and our poached something in this-or-that and our-secret-condiments-from-somewhere-undisclosed-but-dangled-in a-tantalizing-manner-before-our-dinner-guests, and super hip cocktails of the moment. I think it's uproarious fun to actually have fun with our food (thanks to the poster with those reading recs!). I think laughter is something missing from many foodie endeavors. I just don't have the constitution to stand up to such dour seriousness - I want to have fun.

                                          Whew - I guess I've been ranting. Thanks for allowing. My thanks,too, to the posters - and hopefully we can all get to hear some more weird themes.

                                          The New Year is looking better and better.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: cayjohan

                                            Way back in the '80s, I hosted a punk Tupperware party that featured all black food, thanks to some black food coloring (from Maid of Scandinavia).

                                            I've forgotten most of what we had, but there was a memorable cookie-decorating contest - sugar cookies with black icing and various additions found in my medicine cabinet. Oh, if only I had had a digital camera back then....

                                            The poor Tupperware lady was so traumatized that she moved to another state. But the sales from that party were great!


                                            1. re: cayjohan

                                              Cay, after thinking for a couple days, and speaking *only* for myself, and speaking bluntly, if I were faced with a table full of turds and urine (snot and vomit?) all in authentic receptacles with real-life props, yes--I *would* be put off my dinner!
                                              No matter how delicious, no matter how funny, I'd be wishing it were different. Just my 2 cents..

                                              1. re: blue room

                                                Trust me, you're not just speaking for yourself. Yuck-o-rama.

                                            2. We were (in)famous in Nashville for our generally rude party themes, most especially one that was advertised as the company picnic for Bubba Dick's Latex Novelties & Gasket Company. The theme was redneck blue-collar, with all the generic-labeled snack foods we could find (squirt-can cheese on unbranded crackers and the like) and strictly cheap beer, including two cases of a convenience-store brew called "Quittin' Time." I even made up a logo and printed it out onto adhesive-backed clear plastic door-signs for my truck, which then became part of the decor. And just guess what we inflated and tied to the mailbox instead of balloons... It was such a hit that when we left town fifteen years later, our friends insisted on re-running the theme for our going-away party.

                                              As for the potty theme we played here, when we are introduced to new people by our friends, they often say, "Oh, hey, aren't you the guys that threw the s*** dinner?" and they're usually pleased to meet us. I don't know if we'll ever be able to top that one, frankly.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                Will Owen, you are my newest food hero. I appreciate the brazening-it-out and having fun attitude.

                                                THAT'S what's great about food.


                                              2. Thanks, everyone, for making this one of the most entertaining evening reads. Good giggles, and great ideas! My thoughts are pretty mainstream compared to what I have read here. Too funny! Will Owen, I have friends in Nashville, and there seems to be a theme of fun coming from down yonder! Best of luck cayjohan. Please let us all know what you end up doing.

                                                1. I am not sure this is exactly what you are looking for, and but I have been famous for my "Tacky Holiday Party" for years. I usually did this sometime in December, but I could see it still being fun in January. I found old entertaining books from the 50s, 60s and 70s and adapted the recipes from there. The favorites were the snowman cheeseball (which I adapted to current taste) but had pretzel arms and olives for eyes and buttons (I remember pimento being an important theme). Then I had mothballs bouncing in huge brandy snifters. Guests were asked to wear the tacky sweaters from some great aunt.

                                                  Also, not a food-based party, but a lot of fun, was my "Flappers and Gangsters" party. The mobsters vs. rap music interpretation of gangsters was intentional. I rented a craps table, mixed some music and served 20's recipes with foods I have heard mentioned in contemporary rap music. I also took my turn at simple homemade alcohol for this. SO much fun!

                                                  And the party I will throw my first summer in our new house will be a civil war reenactment, meaning recipes based in the 1860's. I have done some hearth cooking and am looking forward to creating a perfect roast and loaf of bread over an open fire. I will have activities for guests to perform as I cook over an open fire in back yard. (sorry, you got me on a roll on entertaining!)

                                                  1. Not super original, but an "anatomy" party could be fun... you know, Rocky Mountain oysters, croquettes of some sort, rum balls, etc., etc.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Katie Nell

                                                      There *IS* an English steamed pudding known as Spotted Dick...

                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                        Oh yes... I had a good laugh over that one at World Market last Christmas!!

                                                    2. Perhaps something along the lines of a Dr. Suess theme party...only you come up with the rhyming storyline.

                                                      Cayjohan, no like spam, cayjohan will eat ham, cayjohan won't lick ice, cayhohan will eat mice................meh.

                                                      It's time for bed. Dead brain.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: melly

                                                        Oh, fun...I think I'll ink this one in for my sis's birthday party. What a hoot.

                                                        And think of the weirdly shaped cake one could concoct!

                                                        I can't stop grinning!