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Monday, February 02, 2004

Vegetable Carving

Have you ever seen delicate flora and fauna carved from vegetables gracing a plate in a Thai restaurant? Carving those creations is a craft that is practiced in Asia as well as Latin America and probably in France as well. While traveling in Asia I marveled at those elaborate carved vegetable decorations. But I never saw anyone actually doing the carving, until tonight.

Suzanne of Heirloom Catering also wondered about the techniques involved in vegetable carving, something apparently not covered at the California Culinary Academy where she studied. So when she happened upon a vegetable carver at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market it seemed like fate. Just a few weeks later a group of ten of us were gathered around her kitchen table watching and following along as Arthur Escoto dazzled us with his skill and creativity.

Perhaps most interesting was the way in which like a traditional sculptor, Arthur looks at vegetables and figures out what to carve. We followed along and created calla lilies out of fennel, daisies out of carrots, tulips out of potatoes and feathery leaves out of bell peppers, among other things. While I'm not sure I will remember all the techniques, the class made for an enjoyable evening. The craftsmanship and artistry is truly impressive when experienced up close. Even more so after you give it a try and see how hard it is to do with any grace or style. If you ever get the chance to see a vegetable carver in action, don't miss it. If you learn how to do it, as Arthur says, you won't go hungry!