You approach the summer buffet, drink in hand, and pick up a plate. Suddenly you're helpless, without a free hand to serve yourself. On Zuraidah Hoffman's sun-drenched Arlington patio, the solution is simple: Finish off your drink and eat the glass.

Okay, it wasn't truly a glass. It was a chilled cucumber tumbler filled with Pimm's Cup. Refreshing on a stifling Washington summer day, it was perfectly disposable, no bottles to haul to the curb, no glasses to wash and dry.

Edible containers have been around for ages. Think hot dog bun, taco shell and that eat-the-whole-thing-then-lick-your-fingers container, the ice cream cone.

All of those products are ready-made. But Hoffman, a cook and caterer, and I wanted to think outside the box. What if we made the box itself?

We had two guidelines: All had to be simple to make with commonly found ingredients and equipment. And they had to be whimsical.

We took some prepared wraps, such as eggroll skins and crepes, and transformed them. We molded mashed potatoes and draped shredded cheese and almonds on upside-down custard cups to make crisps. We used icing to "cement" thin chocolate squares into a box.

We even put together a whole meal of edible containers. Who wouldn't get a kick out of eating a bowl of berries and then taking a big bite out of the bowl?

Lisa Cherkasky is a cook, writer and food stylist who lives in Arlington. She last wrote for Food about decorating cupcakes.

* A Watermelon Box, above, is a summer delight when filled with fruit, sorbet or smoothie.

* Spooned into Toast Boxes, rear at left, egg, tuna, crab or shrimp salad never had it so good.

* Asparagus and just anything else works in Cheesy Mashed Potato Bowls, front at left.* A Wonton Wrapper Cup, left, could hold shrimp, stir-fried vegetables or edamame.

* A Parmesan and Almond Crisp, above, provides a crunchy basket for lightly dressed greens.

* Fill a Cucumber Cup, top, with sake, Pimm's Cup or chilled juice; after drinking, munch the cup.

Recipes and instructions appear on Page 6