I had never heard of a carrot carnation. But when, back in the 1980s, several of my fellow staffers at the office of a Texas State Senator in Austin wanted to learn about them, I went along to kill some time. (There are downsides to working in the legislature of a state with an anti-government culture, but it does provide you with a lot of free time).

We soon found ourselves in the auditorium of the convention center in Austin, surrounded by thousands of middle-aged suburban housewives. On stage, a woman resembling Martha Stewart showed how, with a knife and a little imagination, fruits and vegetables can be turned into ornamental table settings, like carrot carnations.

Many years later, I came to realize that I had witnessed one extreme of the artistic spectrum. At one end of the spectrum… More…