What’s for dinner? Quilters cook up answer

“Sushi Surprise” by Nancy B. Dickey of Magnolia, Texas, is one of 24 place settings in a special art quilt exhibit titled “What’s for Dinner?” Dickey says she wanted to convey the sense of exploration she felt with her first sushi experience. Octopus tentacles reach into the plate, one holding chopsticks, to taste the Japanese delicacies.

Lee Ann Ferring of Houston shaped fabric into “Got Sushi?” Her menu is complete with kabuki roll (spicy tuna with avocado and shrimp), ebi (shrimp on rice) and sake (salmon on rice). Her appetizer is edamame with sea salt.

Kathy Collins of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., says her family often has “Dinner at the Coop,” ordering the restaurant’s special, chicken on a sesame roll. Lettuce and sliced tomatoes are included in the sandwich.

Each place setting measures 24 inches by 15 inches and depicts a favorite meal of the quilter. “Breakfast for Dinner” by Sue Bleiweiss of Upton, Mass., depicts a meal she enjoys on “a cold New England winter evening.” Eggs, toast and jam with some fruit — “yummy and comforting,” Bleiweiss says.

“Pepperoni, Please!” by Nneka K. Gamble of Longview, Texas, goes well with a side salad garnished in Parmesan cheese, croutons and “a healthy dose of black pepper.”

Spilled milk, smushed peas and macaroni and cheese are likely food items for a toddler’s meal, “I do it! I’m Two,” made by Carolyn Goins of Hamilton, Va.

It’s not often that quilt designs stimulate our salivary glands.

But that was the sensation the co-curators of a special exhibit titled “What’s for Dinner?” hoped to induce when they put out a call for art quilts the size of a place setting, with cloth renditions of quilters’ favorite meals.

Culinary choices from artichokes to zucchini delighted crowds who feasted their eyes on two dozen servings displayed on long tables with chairs, as though guests were attending a dinner party, at Houston’s recent International Quilt Festival. Laminated pages of the artists’ statements were presented at each setting similar to a restaurant menu.

Curators Jamie Fingal of Orange, Calif., and Leslie Tucker Jenison of San Antonio introduced visitors to their exhibit with a sign that read:

What’s for Dinner?

Quilters not only have a passion for fabric, notions and sewing machines, but also a passion for food! Whether it’s going out to eat or cooking something in their own kitchens, this is a creative interest and/or hobby in which many quilters take part. We have “set the table” with quilts depicting “place settings,” complete with placemat/
tablecloth, napkin, fork, knife, spoon and a plate full of “what’s for dinner.”

Each place setting measured 24 inches by 15 inches for uniformity and realism. The artistic foodies stirred large measures of humor into their entrees, as if that ingredient were as essential as their colorful fabrics.

In “Sushi Surprise,” quilt artist Nancy B. Dickey of Magnolia, Texas, depicted her first experience with the popular Japanese delicacy (also notorious as raw fish fare) — her surprise birthday dinner.

To convey the sense of exploration, Dickey depicted an octopus, “which is a curious creature,” she notes, using its tentacles to reach in and discover the bite-size parcels of food.

Lee Ann Ferring of Houston assembled “Got Sushi?” and defined each course: an appetizer of edamame with sea salt; main course of ebi, shrimp on rice; sake, salmon on rice; and a kabuki roll, spicy tuna with avocado and shrimp. Condiments included wasabi, pickled ginger and a bowl of soy sauce.

Licking her chops for more traditional American fare, Kathy Collins of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., designed “Dinner at the Coop” with chicken on a sesame roll.

Her chicken is complete with wings, feet and head sticking out of the bun and a perplexed expression on its face.

Collins says: “We are at the ‘Coop’ tonight for dinner. It serves all things chicken and tonight we are going to have the special. It comes with French fries (our personal favorite) and we have requested mayo and mustard on the side.” Lettuce and sliced tomatoes also are served in the sandwich.

Another clever quilter, Carolyn Goins of Hamilton, Va., set a place at the table for a toddler in a high chair, complete with a spilled carton of milk and smushed peas. Goins titled it “I do it! I’m Two.”

Pepperoni pizza, military field rations known as Meals Ready-to-eat in brown packaging and a breakfast-for-dinner plate of eggs and toast rounded out this full menu of quilted art. A mouth-watering exhibit, for the most part (I’m not a fan of sushi).

I walked around that enticing table more than once. I couldn’t resist a second helping of this blend of cooking and quilting talent.

By the way, what’s for dinner at your house tonight?

Email Sherida.Warner@


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