This 'Food Illusionist' Makes Incredible, Confusing Desserts Shaped Like Sponges and Ashtrays

Olive oil sponge cake with mint crumb, sweet milk foam, and a baked apple puree.
Olive oil sponge cake with mint crumb, sweet milk foam, and a baked apple puree.
Courtesy of Ben Churchill

A self-proclaimed “food illusionist,” British chef Ben Churchill makes desserts that might not be so appetizing at first sight.

Churchill’s desserts “resemble other foods and everyday objects,” Bored Panda reports. Among his most popular creations are a vanilla panna cotta shaped like an ashtray, an orange parfait shaped like a moldy orange, and an olive oil sponge cake shaped like, you guessed it, a dirty kitchen sponge.

Vanilla panna cotta, Smokey Lapsang gel, meringue powder, chocolate.Courtesy of Ben Churchill

Churchill fell into the culinary world “by accident,” he told the Endpaper blog in 2017. After the chef dropped out of art school (he didn’t see a future in it), he took a job cooking at a local pub. But it wasn’t until about 2015 that he started learning how to make pastries.

“I had never done pastry before and wanted to learn, so I just started teaching myself,” Churchill tells Mental Floss in an email. “I ventured into fruit-shaped desserts, but found them too limiting. I used inspiration from films, video games, the world around me, to start seeing what I could do with food.”

Some of Churchill’s sources of inspiration include Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and LEGO, all of which he’s turned into delicious desserts. Last year, he published a book about his unique creations called Food Illusions.

Chocolate Iron Throne.Courtesy of Ben Churchill

“I’ve noticed people love the controversial ones like the sponge, so I decided to take this route with the ashtray,” Churchill says. “I love challenging perceptions, questioning good taste.”

That whole idea, in fact, is the premise for Churchill’s second book, he tells Mental Floss. The chef is still in the process of writing and making plans for his second volume of Food Illusions.

Lemon parfait, lavender gel, chamomile shortbread.Courtesy of Ben Churchill

Churchill thinks his lack of formal training has enabled him to push boundaries and have fun with his work.

“My rules?” Churchill tells Mental Floss. “Ignore the rules. If you want to do something, don’t question if you should, ask yourself how you’re gonna.”

To see more of Churchill’s work, follow him on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

[h/t Bored Panda]

Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Why Do We Say ‘Spill the Beans’?

This is a Greek tragedy.
This is a Greek tragedy.
anthony_taylor/iStock via Getty Images

Though superfans of The Office may claim otherwise, the phrase spill the beans did not originate when Kevin Malone dropped a massive bucket of chili at work during episode 26 of season five. In fact, people supposedly started talking about spilling the beans more than 2000 years ago.

According to Bloomsbury International, one voting method in ancient Greece involved (uncooked) beans. If you were voting yes on a certain matter, you’d place a white bean in the jar; if you were voting no, you’d use your black bean. The jar wasn’t transparent, and since the votes were meant to be kept secret until the final tally, someone who accidentally knocked it over mid-vote was literally spilling the beans—and figuratively spilling the beans about the results.

While we don’t know for sure that the phrase spill the beans really does date all the way back to ancient times, we do know that people have used the word spill to mean “divulge” at least since the 16th century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest known reference of it is from a letter written by Spanish chronicler Antonio de Guevara sometime before his death in 1545 (the word spill appears in Edward Hellowes’s 1577 translation of the letter).

Writers started to pair spill with beans during the 20th century. The first known mention is from Thomas K. Holmes’s 1919 novel The Man From Tall Timber: “‘Mother certainly has spilled the beans!’ thought Stafford in vast amusement.”

In short, it’s still a mystery why people decided that beans were an ideal food to describe spilling secrets. As for whether you’re imagining hard, raw beans like the Greeks used or the tender, seasoned beans from Kevin Malone’s ill-fated chili, we’ll leave that up to you.

[h/t Bloomsbury International]