The Food-Shaped Candles I'm Getting Everyone for Holiday Gifts

An Italian company has been making them for hundreds of years.

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December 13, 2022

Photo by: John Derian

John Derian

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Greek bust-shaped candles, colorful candlesticks, totem candles: You’ve probably seen them all. And that’s because funky decorative (expensive) candles that you’ll never burn are having a moment. I’m not mad about it. They make great gifts — if I don’t cave and keep them as décor for my bookshelves.

A few months ago, I returned from a trip to Italy with a prize souvenir: a fennel-shaped candle.

I’d stumbled into a small shop near Lake Como selling books and kitchenware and an assortment of fruit and veggie-shaped candles. When I saw the fennel candle, so realistic, like a tightly furled farm-fresh bulb, I knew I had to have it. I perched it on a tray on my coffee table next to some coasters and incense and art books. When you open the door to my apartment, it’s one of the first things people see, and it never fails to get a laugh or compliment.

I thought I'd have to fly back to Italy to get more, until...

While looking for Christmas tree ornaments at John Derian Company, a New York City-based store filled with antique treasures and all kinds of tableware and trinkets (a store that I call the “danger store” because I’m liable to buy everything inside), I saw them: life-sized cakes decorated in a riot of piping and maraschino cherries, salami logs, a plump wheel of ripe cheese — all candles. They looked more delicious than candles had a right to be.

Photo by: John Derian

John Derian

Derian, who travels the world collecting the contents of his store, explains the charmed way he sourced the candles: “I was walking the Paris trade show Maison and Objet with my friends Ivan Pericoli and Benoit Astier de Villatte of the brand Astier de Villatte, they found the candles and suggested I visit the booth, it was an overwhelming display of cool kitschy candles.”

In fact, Etsy’s trends expert, Dayna Isom Johnson, says that food-shaped candles are popular right now. “Food brings joy and people are using it as décor pieces,” she said. “Kitchen kitsch is in along with a resurgence of the 50’s and 60’s.”

The candles sold at John Derian are from an Italian company called Cereria Introna, which has been making candles from natural paraffin wax and dripless cotton wicks since 1840. I am left wondering whether my own fennel bulb is of Cereria Introna origins, but one thing’s for certain: I’ll be heading back to John Derian to buy everyone on my Christmas list some kitchsy candles. And you should too.

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