Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: Of Vegetabowls & Tonawanda

BENNINGTON -- A hop, skip and leap from the Erie Canal, between the waters of Erie and Ontario, north of Buffalo and south of Niagara Falls, way up by the jagged border of Canada, lies old Native American land called Tonawanda. Tonawanda, New York, 4.1 square miles, population 15,000 though these days less than 60 are Native Americans.

Tonawanda, according to the Wiki, is most likely derived as a "loanword" from the Toscarora Iroquois indians and means "confluent stream" and this explains why ...

... The Tuscarora and Oneida were allies of the Colonists of the Revolutionary War, and that's one of the unique facts about Tonawanda. Other cool tidbits: the Erie Canal and railroads allowed Tonawanda to thrive in the lumber business; Spaulding Fibre became a king of leatherboard manufacturing from 1911 till 1992; Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett incorporated the town into their graphic novels "Boilerplate" and "Femopolis"; Tonawanda is the home of characters in the movies "Band of Brothers" and "Saving Private Ryan"; and even Mark Twain waxed poetic about Tonawanda in "The Diary of Adam and Eve" ...

... and here's another Tonawanda story: Vegetabowls.

No, not vegetables.


Melanie and Justin Mckenney created Vegetabowls three years ago, and they are what they look like: functional art bowls to eat out of. And you can wash them in the dishwasher.

Customers at Fiddlehead at Four Corners art gallery always stop at the Vegetabowls and pick them up and ooh and ahh over them, always with smiles.

Art Gallery Dude engages them and usually the chat goes like this:

AGD: Those are made with real fruits and veggies.
Customer: No they're not!
AGD: They really are. The cantaloupe is made from cantaloupe.
Customer: Are you serious?
AGD: Yes I am. The orange is made from orange, the pineapple is made from pineapple, the grapefruit bowl is made from a grapefruit ... and that's a real cabbage.
Customer: That is so awesome.

One day AGD will throw in a snozberry line just to see if they're paying attention.

Anyway, Vegetabowls are big sellers at Fiddlehead, something Melanie and Justin Mckenney love to hear. They met at Alfred University, dabbled in teaching community art classes in Boston then moved back to Melanie's hometown of Buffalo to start their business. They have a daughter by the name of Lyla and two dogs named Blue and Sadie.

And their Vegetabowls -- from cantaloupe to grapefruit to coconut to red onion to heirloom tomato to acorn squash to watermelon -- are a hit in the functional art world, with stories and photos in the Boston Globe and Cooking Light and Uncommon Goods and Girlfriendz Magazine. And for the second year in a row Vegetabowls is a NICHE Awards finalist (HERE).

Fiddlehead just received several more cantaloupe, orange, grapefruit and cabbage bowls -- and for the first time is carrying 3 watermelon bowls (pictured at the top).

Want some? Order them at Fiddlehead's website  (HERE) ...

... and here's a video that shows the slip-cast process Vegetabowl makers use when they're making Vegetabowls near that confluent stream ...