The Style Conversational
The Style Conversational
Loser-friendly discussion with The Empress of The Style Invitational

Week 945: Gimme some oven — our gingerbread (and other edible-art) contest

By the E, Pat Myers

Good morning, everyone — and a special good morning to veterans of more than Loserdom.

Obviously, this week’s edible-art contest isn’t your typical Style Invitational week — you’ll notice that the introduction is intended for people unfamiliar with the contest — but neither is it unprecedented: In fact, this is the third food-art contest we’ve done.

The first was in the spring of 2006 and was inspired by “Play With Your Food” and similar books by Joost Elffers and Saxton Freymann: It was to come up with a photo cleverly featuring fruit. The second, six months later, was for pumpkins and other vegetables. They didn’t require that all elements of the “sculpture” be made of food, though, as we do this week, and it also welcomed digital ma­nipu­la­tion of the photos, which we’re not doing this week. Neither contest drew zillions of entries — my hopes that cleverly humorous Photoshop wizards would flock to the Invite didn’t materialize — but we ended up with some great winners, most of them by our regular Losers.

Here’s the fruit winner of Week 657, by longtime Loser Jeff Brechlin, who demonstrated an entirely new facet of his humor (his previous claim to fame was for writing a sonnet about the Hokey Pokey): “The Picture of Dorian Grape.”

The runners-up for the fruit contest, one by Jane Auerbach and another by Jeff:

Jane came through again as the winner of the vegetable contest with “Tomato Tanning Bed.”

And the veggie runners-up, timely (Oct. 29) pumpkin settings from Kevin Dopart and Jay Shuck.

This week’s contest was the idea of The Post’s Paul Williams, who’s in charge (among other things) of putting the work of Style section writers on Paul envisioned a gingerbread-man contest, with the winners to be announced on or near Christmas Day. As I’m wont to do, however, I argued for broadening the options not only to include gingerbread houses and dioramas, but to allow other edibles as well. Keep in mind, though, that the winning photos will be published in the Sunday Style section on Dec. 18, the Sunday before Christmas and Hanukkah – and so there’s a slightly better chance that an entry using food associated with the holidays will end up on that day’s cover.

It’s still a wide-open contest, though, and yes, it’s much like the ultra-popular Peeps diorama contest that The Post has run every spring for several years. (Yes, we’re envious of all the attention, over here in Invite Land, to the Peepage.) But it’s different, too: not just in materials, but in the Invitational’s greater emphasis on irreverent wit and on timely, pointed humor: It’s not enough to make an intricately crafted scene of, say, President Obama’s inauguration; it should be slyly funny as well. Part of the humor can come from using particular foods in imaginative ways – so entries where the foodstuffs are easy to identify, rather than, say, a sculpture made of marzipan, probably have a leg up.

On the other hand, there’s a line that even we draw when it comes to taste. For instance: We do not want to see candy planes crashing into gingerbread Twin Towers. We don’t want to see cookies in the shape of bloodied corpses. But you wouldn’t do that anyway, right? Right.

The contest deadline isn’t until the Monday after Thanksgiving, so I hope you’ll have some holiday time to work up your creation. If there’s a way to preserve your entry until a week after the contest deadline -- just in case we wanted to send a photographer to your house – that’d be great. If not, ’sokay – we’ll work with what we have.

If you have general questions about the contest, it’s best to ask them here in the Style Conversational comments thread, where everyone can see my answers. I also frequent the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook; if you’re entering this contest, it may be helpful for you to join up at least for the duration, so you don’t miss out on any discussion.

While, as you saw above, we had terrific winners for both previous edible-art contests, there was notable griping back then by some Invitational regulars who made it a point to enter the Invite every single week. “It’s just not what the Invite is,” one of them protested. He was wrong, of course — this is simply another aspect of what the Invite is. If you don’t like one week’s contest, try another week’s. At least some people were funny with their complaining, such as Brendan Beary in his fruit entry. (It didn’t get ink.)

This time, as last time, I can’t wait to see what comes in: I’m eager to see new names as well as a different kind of humor from longtime Losers. And I’m very optimistic that we’ll end up with a great gallery of edible-art photos; I predict that my only disappointment will be my inability to eat the art supplies.


As we mentioned blithely four weeks ago, the contest to supply quotes that a notable person WOULDN’T have said was stolen directly from a 1986 contest in the now-departed New York Magazine Competition. Fortunately, there were plenty of people left over (or who’ve come onto the scene since then) to misquote, and I had an abundance of funny entries to choose from — I didn’t count, but there were somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 in all, and several hundred had the right idea.

There were many more cases than usual of entrants choosing the same people to work with: For instance, I had something like 27 entries “quoting” Gandhi (of which nine of them quoted quoting “Ghandi”; I don’t penalize for misspelling). About half of the 27 had the Mahatma ordering a steak or cheeseburger, and in the others he was a belligerent bully. But in this case as well as numerous others, I felt that one entry was funnier than others that had the same general joke.

It’s the first Inker — in fact, the first “above-the-fold” ink — for Larry Flynn of Greenbelt, Md., who’d run up eight honorable mentions since getting his first ink in Week 773. Although one might argue that Albert Einstein would actually have been the kind of person who’d humbly deny he was an Einstein, that would be wildly overthinking the entry. My mind doesn’t work like that — who do you think I am?

Back-on-the-scene David Genser (acronym name in the Loser standings: Dried Vegans) scores the messed-up Mr. Bill doll with his Danny DeVito basketball joke; First Offender Chetan Sabnis found the perfectly wrong slogan for Rube Goldberg; and the eerily consistent Trevor Kerr grabs his fourth runner-up prize and 20th blot of ink.

The weekly Carolina “Haw!” of Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford goes to the entry — sent by three people independently — about the quote taken atrociously out of context at the Martin Luther King Memorial.

And yes, my Big Boss — Marcus Brauchli, executive editor of The Washington Post — was totally fine with the entry quoting him with a flurry of diacritical marks.

*“Putting worse in their mouths” was submitted by Beverley Sharp as an honorable-mentions subhead, but it didn’t fit in one column of type in the print paper.


Loser Dion Black, who’s been one of those most passionate and vocal Invitational Devotees — even when he doesn’t enter the contest — has stepped up to host this winter’s Loser Holiday Party at his house in Washington’s Hillcrest neighborhood (once again in January, when people don’t tend to have as many events competing for their Saturday nights). We’ll send out invitations to people on the Invite’s e-mail list; if you’re not on the list and would like to come to the party, write me at and I’ll give you the details. Dion is planning all sorts of fun things (as long as they don’t involve limericks, which he cannot abide)` — and he has a playroom for kids.

And before that is one more brunch this year, a buffet Dec. 18 at Kilroy’s in Northern Virginia just off the Beltway. I plan to attend both events and am especially eager to meet new Losers. And of course, I’m always eager to haughtily disparage the regulars, whack them with my scepter, etc. That’s the weekend when the results to this week’s contest run — so we can talk about the results.

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