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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fresh From the Garden Art

This I found astounding. Granted, strawberries these days are becoming enormous,
but this would seemed to have been carved under an electron microscope.
Remarkable as it might be, this carved
pineapple seems pretty tame compared
to the strawberry above.
According to Google, one of my most popular blogs has been one titled simply, "Food Art" (over 7,500 views). A little further down the list was one titled "Latte Art." I'm not sure if people were more interested in art or food. In any case, this being the time of the year when people are out trying to give away an overabundance of squash, cucumbers, zucchini, and, any number of overabundance of "yucky" vegetables, I though it appropriate to delve into what creative people with too much produce and too much time on their hands have manifested in the way of table centerpieces. (No one ever actually eats this stuff, do they?) If you're expecting a basketful of pretty, fruity, cookie-cutter flowers, think again. Carving up produce has long since gotten way past that old standby.
Some fruity sculpture involves both addition and subtraction.
Even the lowly potato can be
sexy in the right hands.
As in all forms of sculpture there are two types, depending upon the method of creation. There's sculpture by addition and sculpture by subtraction. Addition meaning the putting together of various elements to form an ensemble, and subtraction being the carving away of extraneous material to discover the "figure trapped inside," as Michelangelo put it. Michelangelo subtracted (marble, not Zucchini). Picasso added, gluing, nailing, tying, even welding materials (some he found, some he fashioned) to form his sculptures. The vast majority of your "garden variety" vegetable sculpture today is done by addition. That's the simplest way, simply accumulating and fashioning the needed parts along with enough toothpicks to hold it all together. The real skill, when it come to making fruit and veggies into sculpture, is in subtraction--carving miniature figures from the midst of fairly solid vegetable matter, with watermelon being the overwhelming favorite.
I wonder if the cruise lines do a parade like this if you order room service?
"Sharking" art.
No one is quite sure where and when such vegetable enhancement began, though the common consensus is that it originated in the Far East, Japan, China, or Thailand (perhaps all three in swift succession) probably around 600-800 AD. (I have some greenish sculptured matter in my refrigerator almost that old.) European painters during and after the Renaissance had lots of fun making and painting faces formed by juxtaposing various vegetables. As with painting all edible items, the race was to finish the painting before the food rotted. Today, thanks to the modern science known as refrigeration, we now can add an "arty" longevity to such works bringing them closer to sculptured art in other media. The slightly older art form known today as photography also helps along this line.
The beauty of watermelons is that they're cheap, large, and of a consistent texture while offering at least three different colors as one gets more deeply involved in the carving.
Seafood from the garden?
Though most culinary arts schools today pay some allegiance to such vitamin-laden, high-fiber works of art, the real promoters and preservationists of this novel culinary art, are the guys in white hats working within the cramped confines of cruise ship kitchens. Anyone who can recall when cruise lines still offered "midnight buffets," has no doubt marveled at the sheer audacity displayed down the middle of their white clad tables laden with too much of a good thing, and in supporting roles around and about their much more glamorous ice sculptures. Cruise lines don't do that sort of thing much any more. It came to the point passengers came and took lots of pictures, but very few of them actually ate much (not after having finished a five-course, late-seating dinner about three hours before).

You're so cute...and "squashy."
The outstanding produce carver needs only a modest array of tools--a few sharp knives of various sizes and shapes, a scoop or two, lots of toothpicks, even more patience, a steady hand, a wicked sense of humor, a zigzagging creative streak, and most of all, an overwhelming desire to waste perfectly good food.

The new Apple logo perhaps?

The Apple strikes back--carving fruits and vegetables can sometimes be dangerous. Watch out for the sharp knives...and teeth.

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