: In a room permeating with a fruity smell, two 10-year-olds were eagerly biting into a mermaid that was resplendent in white and red. An aesthetic array of bright-yellow palm trees, deep-red Ganeshas and a flashy-white Taj Mahal stood next to the mermaid, carved out of a well-ripened watermelon.
For P. Narendran, a freelance vegetable carver, it took a good two days to complete the carvings. Fruit and vegetable carving, an art that requires surgical precision and creativity, is attracting more admirers in the city. A profession that was earlier restricted to hotel management students is now being learnt by homemakers and even kids.
At Sai Institute of Carving, a group of youngsters and middle-aged women scrape the flesh of eggplant and fill it with freshly squeezed tomato puree. “For women, it is something that has an element of cooking in it. They see it as a way to decorate home,” says chef Vinith Kumar, director of the institute.
He also teaches thermocol and ice carving, which have now found their way into many wedding parties. “The best part of the carving is that any seasonal vegetable can be used and customised to our creativity,” he adds.
Ilango Prabakaran, a chef on a cruise liner in the U.S., is spending his vacation in the city, learning the art of carving. “It has now become an integral part of any hospitality sector. It helps me go higher up in my career,” he says.
The most common and beautiful motif for any fruit and vegetable carving is flower arrangement. “It is easier to create a rose out of papaya than a sea creature out of a pumpkin,” says Mr.Narendran.
Though the colourful carving at weddings and hotels looks elaborate, there are only a bunch of vegetables and fruits that can stand the test of knife. If watermelons and pumpkins give enough room to experiment, delicate grapes and strawberries can only embellish the corners of the arrangement.
A bunch of corns stacked against each other at the office of K.P. Rajendran tasted as yummy as it looked. Only, they did not taste like corns but like pineapples. The profession, he says, demands time and concentration. “Be it freelance carvers or those who are attached with an institution, they are monetarily well placed. But if there are too many projects, it definitely takes a toll on our health,” he says.