I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand all the toys I owned as a kid: a plastic-headed, smushy-bodied baby doll with malfunctioning eyelids, a stuffed polar bear I named Snowy (whom I secretly feared), a Barbie-knockoff named Darci (who had gargantuan feet), an R2-D2 action figure, and a Donkey Kong Game & Watch handheld game. I didn’t feel deprived, though; toys weren’t my thing. I preferred cake.
But as an adult, I discovered a love for miniature toy food and vinyl action figures.
What’s not to like about miniaturized food and kitchen gadgets? In my twenties, I made special trips to little shops in San Francisco’s Japantown to find wee plastic replicas of bento boxes and milk cartons, bamboo steamers and rice cookers. In Tokyo, I spent an entire afternoon visiting the shops on Kappabashi-dori to procure plastic replica food (now proudly displayed in my dining room). I started watching videos like this one. Why? BECAUSE TOY FOOD IS AWESOME.
And whenever I was in cities on either coast, I felt compelled to pop into shops that display and sell designer vinyl action figures. I don’t think I’ve ever left New York City without visiting Kid Robot in SoHo, and when I was pregnant with Big-O, the very first toy I ever bought for him was from the now-shuttered Giant Robot store in San Francisco.
Some would say that these high-quality vinyl figures aren’t kids’ playthings—after all, they’re often created by illustrators (or graffiti artists!), produced in small batches, displayed in sleek stores that resemble art galleries, and marketed to collectors—primarily adults. But come on: who can resist opening up the box and playing with them? Not me.
So last summer, when Henry and I were brainstorming ways to promote our cookbook, it wasn’t altogether surprising that we landed on designing a Nom Nom Paleo vinyl action figure—complete with miniaturized kitchen tools and food.