Despite my admiration, I’m not literally inspired by most of it — a fact that has nothing to do with the amazing talents of the people making this stuff, and everything to do with my own failings as a DIY-er. I’m certain I wouldn’t be able to pull off the fine details and impeccable craftsmanship that goes into them.
But there’s a whole category of foods I’ve noticed in my scrolling around social media that meet a couple criteria: First, they are super spooky (and a little icky), which is exactly how I like my Halloween snacks. Secondly, they seem like something I could actually pull off, even with my, ahem, limited artistic skills. The thing they all had in common? They were made into the shape of gnarly, knobby, sometimes grotesque … fingers.
I found cheese straws, breadsticks, carrots and cookies that look like the eerie digits, which are sometimes described as “witch’s fingers” or zombie fingers.” There were hot dogs whose meaty countenance resembled diseased flesh. I was smitten, which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with my previous Halloween crushes, which include “feetloaf” and a severed hand draped with prosciutto to resemble desiccated skin (“scare-cuterie”).
Spooky cookies and more Halloween tricks for celebrating with kids at home
As a bonus, almost all of them looked like things I’d actually want to eat — or serve guests. And the cherry on top for this category is their collective name (at least the one I came to use to describe them), “finger foods,” which is the kind of pun that speaks to my corny sense of humor.
For edible-finger tips (I warned you, didn’t I?), I turned to Lisa Cherkasky, the talented food stylist for many Voraciously photo shoots. Cherkasky says the beauty of the finger food is that the format is accommodating. You can use all manner of vegetables to create them, she said. Pickles, with their toad-like hue and irregular texture, would be a great base. Biscuit dough could be pressed into service. “It’s got that bumpy and weird texture, you know?” she said. And, she suggested, you can amp up the gross-out factor by scattering whatever dough you’re using with seeds or cheese to mimic warts and liver spots.
And here’s where my bumbling could actually pay off — the fingers shouldn’t be perfectly shaped. Lumpy and crooked are really what you’re shooting for here. Once you’ve selected the main component, Cherkasky said, key elements to getting a realistically disgusting look are the fingernails and the striations at the knuckles.
Nails, too, can be made out of a wide variety of materials. For the carrot fingers she made for our photo shoot, she used the inside layer of green pepper flesh — just lay the vegetable flat on the cutting board and run your knife parallel to the surface to remove it, she counsels, then trim it into the shape you like. A dab of guacamole acted as the glue to affix it into the little shelf cut into the carrot. For a batch of breadsticks, Cherkasky selected marcona almonds, whose curved shape seemed more true-to-life (or death?) than some of the sliced nuts she had seen elsewhere. Just make sure to press them into place when the breadsticks are fresh out of the oven and still pliable, so that they stick, she cautioned.
For hot dogs, she recommends making the cuts for the joints and nail beds before you cook them.
Accoutrements offer the opportunity for more gruesome fun: Ketchup can stand in for blood, as can pepper jelly (a good pairing with breadsticks). Guacamole offers a witchy color scheme and a chunky texture.
Cherkasky said she found the grouping of multiple fingers all massed together so visually appealing — or, to be holiday-appropriate, appalling — she was imagining an even bigger spread that might inspire a whole-party menu: “We were saying how fun it would be to do an entire meal that was nothing but fingers.”