It is impossible to see food shaped like a tiny flower, or a small bear, or a bunny, or a star, and not crack a smile. (I DARE YOU.) Which is exactly why, when I started seeing more and more vegetable roses and stars popping up on my Instagram feeds, I felt compelled to open my life up to the same possibilities.
As I learned when I ordered some online, a basic pack of shaped vegetable cutters will run you just about $10 (maybe more depending on how many shapes you want). I’d argue their value is worth more than that though. The prospect of cute garnishes pushes me to buy more crunchy vegetables and gives me something to do with the carrots and cucumbers that would otherwise sit ignored in the fridge, waiting for inspiration.
I’ll admit that the thing about cutting your food into shapes is that there is no real reason why you’d ever need to do it. It takes barely any time to put butter and radishes on bread; it indeed takes time and effort to put star-shaped radishes and star-shaped butter on bread. And of course, once a bite hits your mouth, it doesn’t matter in the slightest how the components were shaped.
But I like cooking the best when I can spend time with it: when I can take a real lunch break, put an audiobook on in the background, and treat making a meal as an intentional pause from my to-do list. Lunch is another one of those daily drudgeries, but the act of stamping shapes out of my food requires taking a few more seconds to pause and breathe. Feeling a satisfying crunch as a cucumber gives in to its new form is especially enjoyable on stressful days, when my unwanted anxiety needs releasing, and I’ve found that this quick hit of mindfulness is easier for me to stick to than, say, following along with yoga videos on YouTube.
Vegetable cutters of this sort have been popular for a while within the bento box community, in which creators treat their packed lunches like little works of art. Essentially, they can be a form of care for whomever is receiving the food, with the elaborate designs signifying the effort behind the meal. I don’t have the energy to do this every day, but when I do take these extra steps with my own food, enjoying a side of Spam flowers with my rice and eggs, it’s a reminder that I can treat myself with the care and thoughtfulness I often otherwise reserve for others.
And yes, I eat all the scraps left behind — they just don’t make it onto Instagram.