Edible Crafts for Tu B’Shevat and Beyond
Deborah Bonelli takes playing with food to a whole new level. In her Bronx, N.Y., kitchen, little animals cut out of pineapple inhabit a Noah’s Ark made from melon while crushed lollipops bedazzle rice crispy cereal treats on an edible rainbow menorah.
“One of the things I love about doing Jewish food art,” said the trained pastry chef, “is trying to find something in the biblical story—an element that can be recreated with food in 3D.”
Bonelli is the creative force behind the website NoshArtFun.com, which provides step-by-step instructions for Jewish holiday-inspired food crafts. For Tu B’Shevat, the new year for trees that falls this year on January 25, her ideas range from assembling trees out of marshmallows, crackers and donuts to a multiday project making a sugar-cookie tray filled with dried fruits, nuts and seeds.
Growing up with a Jewish mother and an Italian Catholic father, Bonelli celebrated Christmas and Easter at home and visited her mother’s relatives for the Jewish holidays. Her mother made beautiful gingerbread houses with Hansel and Gretel figurines that Bonelli would bring to school and inspired her to make edible creations of her own as an adult.
After living in Israel for two and a half years in the early 1980s, Bonelli learned more about Judaism and wondered at the lack of Jewish-themed food crafts in the United States. Bonelli was walking down Madison Avenue in Manhattan one December evening in 1985, shortly after returning from Israel, when she was struck by the sight of gingerbread Hanukkah houses displayed in a bakery window.
“I felt it was mimicking the Christian traditions,” Bonelli said. “When you’re in Israel, everything around you is Jewish. Back here, it was shocking to see Jewish people buying things that were not Jewish. That was my inspiration” to create uniquely Jewish food crafts.
Alexandra Lapkin Schwank