General Bank Street News

‘Funny Food’: Kids, Please DO Play with Your Food

Posted by Nick Gray on April 06, 2012

Funny Food Waffle ManA little man with tomato ears standing on toast legs looks up at you through yellow egg yolk eyes, while a strawberry-winged blackberry butterfly shows off its luminous colors.

What to do but eat them?

These fanciful critters are the breakfast creations of Bill Wurtzel, who, for over fifty years, has lovingly prepared their ilk for his wife Claire, a Bank Street graduate and former Graduate School Special Education faculty member of 17 years. Now, the Wurtzels are sharing their love of silly food with the world with their new book Funny Food, celebrated by Bank Streeters past and present at the College on April 4.

Funny Food presents witty, easy-to-prepare breakfasts for every day of the year, brightly depicted through Bill’s photography and Claire’s engaging, educational text. But the secret ingredient is the message to kids that fresh, healthy food can also be simple, fun, and delicious.

Watch: Bill Wurtzel on NY1

Claire and Bill Wurtzel at the Bank Street book signing“There was originally no intention other than to have a creative and fun breakfast every morning,” says Claire. “And it was really not until we looked at Bill’s photos and realized, you know, the media is talking so much about childhood obesity and childhood diabetes... Maybe we can do something about this. With my educational background and Bill’s sense of fun and artistic abilities, we’re a good team.”

Linda Levine, who went to Bank Street with Claire in the 1970s and later became a longtime faculty member in the Graduate School, says of the authors, “that’s one of the best marriages I’ve ever seen. For years Bill’s been making breakfast for Claire just to entertain and delight her. He’ll go into the kitchen, put whatever’s there together, and make these artful, very compelling breakfasts.”

A Model for Others

The book is looking to be a great success, but Levine reminds us that Claire “has always thought of herself as a teacher first. For years she has done amazing and selfless work for children with a range of learning disabilities, and she is considered by many to be ‘the goddess of inclusion’ in New York City.”

Kids with 'Funny Food'“Our goal is to take this and have other people run with it,” says Claire. “This is not our life’s work, but we do love it, and we’d like to see it out there for others to lead, and for it to be integrated into a larger initiative.”

To that end, the Wurtzels are using Funny Food as the basis for workshops they’re conducting at schools around the city, hoping schools and parents carry the message on. Says Claire, “we have one coming up for schools facing severe behavioral challenges, and then we’re going to end the year with one at a middle school in East Harlem.”

Join the Funny Food Revolution

Anyone eager to come face-to-face with a fox made of fruit or to jam with a pancake guitar can join the Wurtzels at one of several upcoming events in New York:

Funny Food is available at the Bank Street Bookstore. Learn more at www.funnyfood.us.