Carving of food is the technique of shaping food items to make them visually appealing. Carved food are a party craze and many food artists spend a considerable amount of time and energy to deliver the best their talent can produce. Food carving, an upcoming field in the area of culinary academics, is a part of food sculpting and food art. The process of carving involves shaping suitable edibles into aesthetically appealing forms. Pumpkin or watermelon is one of the most common vegetables used for preparing carved food. Carrots, beets, potatoes, radish, cucumber, green apples, guavas are the other food items which offer themselves well to the culinary artistic to show his/her talent.
Carving of food, unlike popular belief, is neither a difficult nor a time consuming task. Essentially, a sharp knife is the most basic instrument required for carving fruits and vegetables. Carving knives are only required for complicated designs.
Purpose of Carving Food
Carving food serves purposes other than visual appeal. Food that is visually appealing automatically makes the food appetizing. It also makes food easier to consume as the food is cut into shapes and sizes which are convenient for serving as well as consumption.
Carving of food seems to have origin in the Eastern Asian cuisine. Carved food came into being in the Thai cuisine in Loi Krathong Festival, 700 years ago in the Sukhothai Dynasty. This festival which is famous as the Thai Lantern festival involves making laterns carved with fruits and vegetables and floating them in water and then pray the Thai water God on a full moon night in December. Lady Nopphamat introduced the practice by carving shapes of various birds and other animals on fruits and vegetables and making lanterns out of them. The carved fruits and vegetables used for making the lanterns looked very appealing and from then onwards food carving was introduced as a technique of decorating food prepared for parties. The Thai royal and elite classes were offered carved food which was regarded as a mark of respect and hospitality to the guests.
Selection of Fruits and Vegetables for Carving
Carving yields amazing results when the material that is to be carved meets the criteria set for quality output. It should be borne in mind that a fruit or vegetable to a food artist is like a canvas to a painter and just the way the quality of the canvas should be good for impressive results, the quality of the edible chosen for carving should be the best. Here are some points that can be borne in mind while selecting fruits and vegetables for carving:
• The fruits and vegetables should be fresh, without any wrinkles or bruises and uniformly sized.
• The fruits and vegetables chosen for carving should be regularly shaped and should be colored brightly or well. The food items in general should be firm. Fruits or vegetables that are artificially dyed are best avoided.
Apart from these general rules, there are specific rules of selection based on the individual characteristics of the fruits or vegetables.
Points to bear in mind in the preparation of Carved Food
Carving food is done for decorative purposes and it should be borne in mind that the carved food is ultimately meant for consumption. Therefore, while carving food, it should not be cut excessively so that a major portion of the edible matter is not compromised with and it remains intact. Care should be taken to see that juices of fruits or vegetables do not flow out excessively when cut. The figures carved should be appetizing. People may prefer to eat floral patterned food, but may not like to eat food shaped like animals like dog or rat. If the carved food is meant to be dipped in sauces, it has to be cut into bite-sized pieces.
Preparation of Carved Food
Carving of food is done in a methodical manner. Here are the steps to be followed for carving food:
1. A large fruit like the watermelon is chosen for carving. Smaller fruits which are firm and lend themselves well for carving are also used.
2. The design to be carved is drawn on the fruit with a sharp point.
3. The fruit or vegetable is then cut along the lines and the rind removed.
4. The inside flesh of the fruit or vegetable may b scooped out if required.
5. Different designs on the fruit or vegetable may be carved out as per the requirements of the design.
Storing Carved Food
As carving of food requires effort and takes time the carved food should be preserved well so that it does not get spoiled easily. Carved fruits and vegetables should be stored in cold water so that they remain fresh but they should not be stored in water for a long time as that might again spoil them. All food of one design should be stored at a place so that and not with others so that spoilage of one type does not affect spoilage of other types.
The Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkin was 1,469 pounds in weight.