The Edible Woman

This is Harvest Festival time and in celebration of the season I am featuring the Edible Woman, alternatively The Prize.  She is a member of  the Flora Embroideries and was first imagined as a mate to The Giant Vegetable Man in the Flower Show blog. He had to have a mate made for him, even though he is pug-ugly, it would be sad to let all that male vitality and virility go to waste.

The first idea I had for her was as an earth goddess, all burgeoning breasts and stomach, lascivious and wanton…a good match for him. I made several drawings but couldn’t bring myself to actually embroider them; she was not to be a figure of ribald humour like him and I did not want her to be sniggered at in the giant vegetable show .

The  breeders and exhibitors of flowers and fruit for prizes, prefer perfection of form to any other consideration. So she had to have some sort of beauty and so I thought she  could possibly become an old man’s darling, kept for her beauty and breeding potential – a trophy wife. But as such she is vulnerable as is an edible woman.

I thought of the lovely dishes of fruit displayed at the local flower shows often arranged on paper lace doilies and also the bowls of water containing heads of flowers arranged in patterns so delicately displayed.

I then remembered that my mother used to win baskets of fruit at the local whist drives when I was a child. She would invariably come home with either a bottle of sweet sherry or more often a wonderful exotic basket of fruit. Well the basket was exotic, a large straw affair – what I now call a “lady basket” – which had to be given back the next week; it was always tied with a ribbon on the handle and the various fruits culled from village gardens were made valuable by the beautiful presentation –  a proper prize.

My lady was beginning to take shape in my mind, but how to make her face from edible things?I bought some exotic fruit and tried to arrange them into a face – this was not easy, the first attempt was really dreadful, like a fat unhappy drunk pumpkin woman, the only things that worked were the 5 okra as ladies fingers and the pomegranate and persimmon looked hopeful as breasts…….

But I decided to sort it out by drawing..I would work with what I could and let the rest take shape around this, while stitching samples I had plenty of time to think.

I don’t remember when I decided to make the fingers from asparagus, I know why though, they look more like painted pink fingernails. The painted silk is shown below above another edible personification, but who would want to marry her?

So here she is – my Prize – the Edible Woman in all her glory; displayed for your delectation in a ruched fabric marquee, usually reserved for weddings but often used for the classier northern England flower shows. You could eat all of her, from her apple cheeks to her cherry lips, dip her asparagus fingers into melted butter and nibble you way through the sweet salad flowers of her hair; scrunch your teeth through her pear nose while contemplating her dark nipples before you peel your way into her luscious ripe breasts……

Now here’s a challenge – would any of the cooks out there like to concoct a recipe from her, or for her,  maybe a menu would be easier….the asaparagus doesn’t lend itself to inclusion in fruit salads – but then what do I know? I don’t cook puddings I only ever embroider them.

Flower Show

class 172 "edible face on a plate". 5-7 years inclusive

This is the season for flower shows in England and here in Somerset there are lots to visit,  so last Saturday I went to a neighbouring village, Tickenham, just to see how it compares to the Portishead show – which is the best in the district and had inspired a set of embroideries which I made some time ago…. more of which later.

When I arrived the first view was of the small marquee set in a field with lots of other tents and awnings with stalls selling things, a brass band played, there were queues for ice creams, cream teas and home-made cakes – so far so good.

perfect photographic opportunity at the flower and produce show

I really like the shows in marquees the best – the air smells of flowers and crushed grass and the light inside is perfect for enhancing the exhibits. Sometimes at the posh flower – arranging shows such as Harrogate in Yorkshire, they hire wedding marquees which have draped walls of ruched fabrics…but plain canvas gives the best light.

marrows glow in the marquee

Although the main point of these shows are the vegetable and flower competitions, I prefer the other stuff; children’s gardens on a plate or  seed tray;

miniature flower garden in a seed tray

surreal faces and animals made from vegetables. But  My Grandad at the head of the blog only received a third prize – what do the judges think they are doing? The display that won – and it was excellent – was praised for being “simple and effective” – but who wants ‘simple and effective’ on a wet Saturday afternoon at a flower show – we want exuberance, competition, prizes for fun, colour, imagination and originality. In all the many shows I visited I have never before seen a child’s vegetable portrait.

simple and effective monster!

So when I went to the shows for inspiration I wasn’t looking for “refined” I was looking for ideas and arguments about how we manipulate the natural world for our own benefits  and as I saw the baskets of vegetables and those marrows on Saturday,  I remembered my own versions of these exhibits.

basket of prize vegetables at Tickenham show

I went to the giant vegetable show in Lincolnshire where I had expected to just see larger versions of the above…but there was something else going on.

photographic collage of the giant vegetable show

The marquees where hot and humid but the smell was of rotting vegetation, huge marrows and mis-shapen pumpkins often carved with names, it made us think we had wandered into a vegetable porn show. My original idea of a sort of giant Green Man was replaced by a lecherous freak of nature –  and it was so obvious that everyone else saw what we saw and were comparing these vegetables to body “parts”.

drawing from collage with the scarified bodies of the pumpkins

the heaviest carrots

I think you can see where I was heading………

drawing for Giant Vegetable Man

The drawing for the vegetable man above was constructed from various vegetables exhibited at the show, all chosen for their grossness and sexual connotations. In the embroidery, below, I have put the man in a booth with a curtain that can be drawn aside, a convention of the popular freak shows in 18th and 19th century Britain. He holds a packet of birth control pills; apparently one grower had stolen his wife’s pills  because they had made her retain water and put on weight  – so he mashed them up as a liquid feed for his Heaviest Marrow exhibit – honestly this is true, I invented nothing for any of the embroideries in this collection, I merely re – arranged the visual facts.  Below, the onlookers are being enveloped by a marauding cabbage.

the freak show vegetable man in his booth.

But to get back to the Tickenham show and the wrongful distribution of prizes. Can you believe that this hand puppet only made third prize in Class 184 – for 8-11 years inclusive – “Anything you like – you made it, let’s see it”?  I think he has such presence and holds the true spirit of Mr Punch that he is in a class of his own.

puppet in class 183 for 8-11 years inclusive

In future blogs there will be more stories from the flower shows which gave rise to The Flora Embroideries.