Fe, Fi, Faux Food: Frying Pan Volunteer Creates Fake Feasts

The Fairfax County Park Authority has hundreds of volunteers who do everything from removing invasive plants to monitoring dog parks. One volunteer at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon has been making an unusual contribution to the park since 2010: fake historic food.

Looks good enough to eat – but don’t!

“I think my first project on the farm was peanut butter cookies,” Pat Zalubski recalls. “Sometimes my faux food looks so real, people want to pick them up and eat it. The docents at the park have learned to pull the cookies out of reach for this reason.”

Zalubski creates food tableaux for Frying Pan’s Kidwell farmhouse. Built around 1895, the house was restored to its 1930s appearance. Park staff and volunteers (including Zalubski) give free tours of the house to the public, explaining how farm families lived during the 1920s – 1950s.

Zalubski creates various faux food items to show what farm families might have eaten during different seasons and holidays. She wants visitors to feel as if they’re magically stepping back into history – as if the family cook is still there, but temporarily out of sight. “It should look like the person just walked away for a minute,” Zalubski says.

All set for a holiday party featuring pastries and a vanilla cake roll with chocolate icing.

Creating this magic takes a lot of ingenuity. For example, the cake roll pictured above was made with two round oatmeal containers, some sponge packing material, packing tube paper, and acrylic paint.

“A lot of times, I actually go out and buy the food item I am trying to make so that I can get the color correct,” she says. “When making a purple-leaf cabbage, I placed a purple cabbage leaf next to it to get the correct color.”

Zalubski is also a stickler for historical accuracy. She researches old recipes to make sure the food items she creates look like the ones farm families could have made using the ingredients they had back then. “For example, you can buy a faux food cake on the internet, however, it will not look like the simple cake the farm wife would have made,” she explains.

Zalubski also makes sure that the containers she displays the faux food in look authentic as well. “Usually, I am looking for old, worn-out dishes with chips or cracks which are generally inexpensive and perfect for the Kidwell farmhouse’s Depression-era food displays,” she says.

Zalubski strives to use dishes that look as historically authentic as the faux food.
Pat Zalubski
Pat Zalubski

Although it’s clear from her work that Zalubski is an amazing artist, she does not have an art degree. In fact, Zalubski learned to create faux food by trial and error. “There are not too many books or classes on the subject,” she says.

You can see Zalubski’s work the next time you tour the Kidwell farmhouse at Frying Pan Farm Park, which is located at 2709 West Ox Road, Herndon, Va.

Author Lois Kirkpatrick is the marketing coordinator at Frying Pan Farm Park.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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