The History of Plastic Food Props

Faux Food Displays

Faux food dates as far back as the time of Egyptian Pharaohs. It was a common practice then to bury the king with whatever they needed to traverse to the spirit world. Of this essential package for the journey to the gods was food preserved and buried together with the King. Modern world has gradually grown into the art of perfecting fake food. It all started in Japan after the end World War II when foreigners went there to assist with the rebuilding efforts. Because of the language barrier, both written and spoken, Japanese restaurant proprietors had to pack a sample food for each item and display it for the foreigners who could pinpoint whatever they needed. Real food proved difficult to maintain in an appetizing state because of natural decay, thus new methods had to be devised. One of these innovative ideas was the revival of the plastic food props industry. This idea was taken up by Japanese candle makers and artisans who came up with platefuls of waxed artificial food props for restaurants. Up to the late 80s, paraffin and wax were the most common materials used to model the food replicas. However the disadvantage with paraffin was that the colors tended to fade away on exposure to heat. Since then, the latest generation of faux food manufacturers have switched to vinyl chloride.

Modern technologies have made it possible for high quality plastics to be used to manufacture realistic looking faux food. To date, over 90% of the food replicas are handcrafted by artisans and highly skilled craftsmen. They use brushes and other forms of painting to create perfect imitations of real food.

The use of fake food in TV and other form of media is common place these days. Food displays are used in various ways including as props for backgrounds in trade shows, print ads, television commercials, for movies, theatrical plays, and television shows.

On television, display food can be used in cooking competitions whereby chefs cut and fry fake foods which apart from lack of the smell of actual food look and feel realistic. In movies and commercials such fake food are used for creating stunts and playing with them. That could be the reason why they say don’t try this at home. Clowns on TV shows also utilize this fancy food for their tricks.

There are certain tricks used in TV to make the display food appear real. For instance leaving bits of skin on fries and a sprinkle of salt unevenly makes them look realistic. Another way in which watchers are convinced is through placement of fake food in containers or places where real food are normally placed.

Making display food commercials are not always easy. It takes a team of stylists, designers and photographers to recreate fake food from their original real food. This involves highly skilled techniques being employed to perfect the illusion of the food. It’s a painstaking exercise entailing photography of real food and handcrafted recreation of the same in form of plastic and silicon models. As mouth watering as they look, they are designed chiefly for that purpose. The intention is to get you off that couch and stroll to a KFC or McDonald’s for a bite.

No matter the semblance of these fakes to actual food most are made from toxic materials hence one needs to be careful with them around toddlers.

What are your thoughts about fake food? Let me know!

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