What, you expected pretty gingerbread snowflakes?
Just about every week for 19 years, we’ve asked the readers of The Style Invitational, The Post’s famously irreverent humor/wordplay contest, to pull off varied feats of verbal agility, daring wit or just spit-out-your-coffee ha-has — everything from coining new words to writing limericks to telling Your Mama jokes. And the corps of regular Invite contestants — proudly called the Losers, after the slogan on the T-shirts awarded to runners-up — rises to challenge after challenge, zinging us merrily but boldly with edgy, timely wit.
Then, five weeks ago, we asked Invitational readers to put away their keyboards — and open their cupboards — for a contest to portray people or events from the 21st century using only food as materials. With a few exceptions, the winning entries from Week 945 aren’t elaborately crafted works of culinary sculpture; in fact, our winner is darned minimalist. But they certainly reflect the Style Invitational’s renowned mix of highbrow and lowbrow humor, not to mention those groaner puns.
See photos of the winners and runners-up in the photo gallery on this page; more details about them are below.
THE WINNER OF THE INKER
“Bin Laden 2011: That’s a Wrap” by Alethea and Kevin Dopart, Washington
When we asked for edible art depicting events of the 21st century — and remember, we were asking Style Invitational contestants, a group not exactly known for excessive good taste — we feared we’d be seeing fondant planes flying into cream-wafer Twin Towers, or little pretzel-stick people washed away in a meringue tsunami. Or some horribly gory diorama of a gingerbread house in Pakistan visited by SEAL Team 6.
Kevin Dopart — a traffic safety expert for the nonprofit consulting company Noblis and, more important, the Style Invitational’s top ink-scorer for each of the past five years — typically didn’t shy from bold material. But he and his daughter Alethea, a recent Wellesley international-relations graduate who just started a job with the World Bank (“this contest was the end of her fun employment,” Kevin says), managed to depict the disposal of an evil man’s corpse with a humorously minimalist, themed elegance: a burrito slipping through a sea of blue tortilla chips.
“Hard to Swallow: The GOP Field” by Alethea and Kevin Dopart
Featuring Prawn Paul, Herman Cane, Fig Newt, Mitt Rameny, M’shell Bokmann and Rick Pear-y. Notable among the materials: potato lecterns; “Bokmann’s” head of bok choy and pasta-shell mouth; and Pear-y’s eyebrows of, ahem, Nutella.
The Dopart daughter-father team scores again with the groaner puns for which the Invite is renowned, not to mention especially fetching depictions of the Republican presidential candidates (Herman Cain had not yet dropped out). If anything, they all look a little too dignified.
“MalloMars Rover: Search for S’more Data” by Abigail Fraeman, St. Louis
Abigail, a grad student at Washington University, is a collaborating scientist on NASA’s Mars rover missions, and here she applies her technical expertise to a vehicle made with a graham cracker body; Famous Amos wheels; antennas and instruments of pretzels and marshmallows; a Hershey-bar solar array; and a terrain (martain?) of, duh, Mallomars. Abigail is the daughter of veteran Invitational Loser Kathy Hardis Fraeman, but she’s a First Offender herself.
“Bean Weingarten” by Craig Dykstra, Centreville, Va., based on an idea by Valerie and Annie Dykstra, his wife and college-freshman daughter
Certainly the most impressively executed of this array of (dis)gustatory art, this leguminous mosaic rates as Invite material because only a true Loser would work for 23 hours to depict Gene Weingarten — The Post’s humor columnist and the founder of the Style Invitational — in 5,000 pieces of six varieties of flatulence-generating plant matter. Unfortunately, this fine portrait now exists only as a photo: 242-time Invitational Loser Craig Dykstra never glued it down in its 30-inch-square frame; instead, he dumped all the beans into a jar to be a door prize at the Losers’ upcoming holiday party.
See the honorable mentions — plus one that doesn’t officially get ink but is too nice to ignore — in the photo gallery .
See this week’s new Style Invitational contest — Week 950 — here or at washingtonpost.com/styleinvitational.
Honorable mention: “The Bug Apple: New York Hotel Room,” by Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.
The 276-time Loser depicts the hospitality industry’s critterly scourge with coffee-bean bedbugs atop a lasagna-noodle bedspread and mattress. Taking coffee in bed will never seem the same.
Honorable mention: “Meatless Weiner,” by Amanda Yanovitch, Midlothian, Va.:
A tortilla-wrapped leek tweets his junk from the House gym with a baker’s-chocolate phone.
Honorable mention: “Irene: I Scream,” by Amanda Yanovitch, Midlothian
Pretzel utility poles and icing power lines are no match for dangerously falling broccoli in a hurricane. Fortunately, the graham cracker house proves an unlikely survivor — something for the almond-slice screamer inside to Munch on.
Honorable mention: “Homage to Steve,” by Deb Dawkins, Denton, Md., a First Offender
Done just after Steve Jobs’s death, a gingerbread man as The Man on Every Street in the 21st century.
Honorable mention: “Eminems,” by Craig Dykstra, Centreville
Craig painstakingly assembled this portrait from about 2,800 mini-M&Ms. “And yes, I did turn all of them M side up — thanks for noticing.” He may be shady, but this won’t make you slim.
Honorable mention: “Occupy Wall(nut) Street,” by Jeff and Saralinda Contompasis, Ashburn
One of our few gingerbread entries, this one from a 219-time Style Invitational Loser and his 11-year-old daughter, features walnut-windowed gingerbread buildings along with the gingerbread bull at Bowling Green Park, and Gummi Bear protesters. “Some of the protesters did not make it and were unfortunately consumed by one of the two artists,” Jeff reports.
Honorable mention: “Honey, That Laser Rejuvenation Makes You Look 30 Days Younger!,” by Dan Steinbrocker, Los AngelesDan captures the 21st-century L.A. zeitgeist via russet potato peels. Not exactly a work of intricate craftsmanship, but we laughed.
Honorable mention: “Y2Kernels: Seeing in the New Ear,” by Kathy Hardis Fraeman, Olney, and Abigail Fraeman, St. Louis
Okay, it may be a bit corny, she admitted huskily, but you have to like the groaner pun — not to mention the little naked baby corn — submitted by longtime Loser Kathy and her daughter Abigail. Abigail, a space scientist, also created the third-place “MalloMars Rover.”
Ineligible for an honorable mention because they didn’t depict something from the 21st century . . .
And also because they weren’t actually funny, but we want to show them to you because they’re so beautifully done:
“The Cupcake Chronicles,” by Rebecca Wrenn of Riverside, Calif., who some years ago crafted these depictions of historic events for the college history courses she teaches.
Visit the online discussion group The Style Conversational, where the Empress discusses today’s new contest and results along with news about the Loser Community — and you can vote for your favorite among the inking entries, since you no doubt figured the Empress chose the wrong winner. If you’d like an e-mail notification each week when the Invitational and Conversational are posted online, write to the Empress at firstname.lastname@example.org (note that in the subject line) and she’ll add you to the mailing list. And on Facebook, join the far more lively group Style Invitational Devotees and chime in.