This week my son had to do a presentation to his preschool class (yes, homework already and he’s just 4) on an animal of his choice. He and his co-presenter chose the shark. My instinctual response was a combination of “Cool!” and “Yay, he didn’t choose a wussy animal”, and then as I read through the requirements page I saw that we needed to bring a cake or cookies in the shape of the chosen animal for him to share with his classmates. Boo. My mind jumped through the significance of this – I have no shark shaped cookie cutters; I’m pretty sure cutting a slab cake into a shark will look like a dolphin and possibly not leave enough cake for 35 kids; I still haven’t mastered my royal icing recipe and certainly don’t know how to make varying shades of gray; I don’t think I can get allergy-safe candy fish/sharks… Bottom line – I wasn’t so thrilled. That is, until I remembered seeing a watermelon shark online.
Carving a watermelon shark is something that I had wanted to do for years, but shelved the thought of since who buys a whole watermelon for only 3 people? But now that I was catering to 35 hungry kids, it suddenly felt it was meant to be. So, instead of sending some junky store bought snack or trying to hack up one of one of my favourite cake recipes and somehow ice it to resemble a shark, I finally did it. I sent my son to preschool with a watermelon shark fruit platter. And it was a HUGE success (HUGE!), inspiring my soft-spoken son with confidence to proudly speak in front of the class and driving questions and enthusiasm from the rest of the kids.
I’m a firm believer that we don’t need cookies and candies to celebrate and try to take the opportunity, whenever possible, to reinforce this idea through the foods I organize for my son’s preschool (as part of the parent committee), like fun veggie platters, fruit kebabs, and now this watermelon shark. This isn’t just a food allergy thing, though obviously you can’t get much more allergy-friendly than a platter of fruits or veggies. At least in the country I live in, there is a huge focus on having junk food at parties – chips, cookies, marshmallows, toffees, lollipops – even for 3 and 4 year olds! And I feel like it is such a negative impression to teach kids, that these are the ingredients of a good party, and is actually one context in which I’m grateful for my son’s allergies and how they have given me a reason to say no and force a change.
And it really is easy to do! I took pictures as I went so that I could walk you through how to make a watermelon shark, for those of you interested in trying it yourself. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect – every shark is different!
How to Make a Watermelon Shark – A Step by Step Picture Guide
You will need a large watermelon (try to find one with one side slightly tapered for a more realistic result!), some grapes (at least 2 for the eyes, and for additional filling if needed), at least 4 toothpicks, a good chef’s knife for the large cuts and a paring knife for the finer work.
Step One: Wash and Dry the Watermelon
This is particularly important because you will be cutting through the peel into the melon – you don’t want to push any dirt into the flesh of the melon as you cut.
Step Two: The First Cuts
Choose the rounder/flatter end of the watermelon for the base and cut roughly 1/3 of the melon, on a diagonal (this will make the shark look like it is surfacing from the water).
Next, take your paring knife and gently etch the cut you want to make for the mouth. You can also mark this with a marker first, like you would a pumpkin.
I marked two lines – the bottom and top of the teeth, essentially – and then cut along the inner line to be able to form the start of the mouth.
Step Three: Exposing the Rind
Next I cut away the peel, up to the second line I had drawn for the top of the teeth, being careful to preserve as much of the white rind as possible.
I have seen some suggestions to use box cutters to do this, but I managed fine with a paring knife.
Step Four: Gut and Then Cut
Don’t go cutting the teeth yet! First, use the paring knife to cut a border round the flesh of the watermelon, from both the top and bottom. Then cut a grid into it and use a spoon to push the chunks of watermelon out. Use the spoon to scoop out whatever you cannot remove easily, but try to keep it in big chunks so you have lots to cube for eating.
Why clean out the flesh of the melon before cutting the teeth? You’ll have less risk of accidentally breaking the rind and ending up with a gap-toothed shark.
Once you have finished cleaning out the watermelon, cut your teeth, being careful to make them large enough that they will stay sturdy.
Step Five: Set the Eyes
You can use a melon baller or the paring knife to remove the peel and form a base for the shark’s eyes. Try to keep them evenly spaced for the best results.
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Step Six: Attach the Eyes and Fin
Use a toothpick to pre-poke holes in the watermelon rind where you want to attach the eyes and fin, so that it will be easier to assemble. Then attach the grapes each to a toothpick and fit them in place.
Cut a triangular wedge from either the piece of watermelon you removed from the bottom or the mouth area and slice out the watermelon flesh. Mount the “fin” on two toothpicks, being careful to make sure they line up with the holes you prepared on the back of the watermelon, and fit it in place.
Use a clean cloth or paper napkin to wipe down the watermelon shark (inside and out) and place it on a platter. I lined a platter with blue crepe paper and then covered it with plastic wrap to simulate water.
Step Seven: Add the Edible Fruit
Cube the watermelon flesh into bite-sized pieces and add any extra (washed) grapes or other cut fruit to fill the mouth of the shark and the platter around it.
You can consider adding a small paper fish on a toothpick and planting it in its teeth, or even stage a shark attack scene with a (partial or whole) barbie doll to achieve different effects, depending on your audience.
That’s it! Hope you find this How to Guide useful and will take a minute to share it on Pinterest – maybe you’ll inspire someone to make a healthier choice for their next party!
- 1 large whole watermelon
- 1-2 cups grapes (or alternative fruit of your choice)
- 4-6 toothpicks
- See the step-by step picture tutorial included in the post.