Food Writing

Quarantine food artistry by Shaheen Desai

Inedible discards and leftover scraps of food create magic as the kitchen turns canvas for her

Call it a rush of kitchen creativity or an unbeatable ingenuity to be able to shape stunning renditions using inedible discards that inevitably pop up while cooking at home, avid aesthete Shaheen Desai has been chronicling her thoughts through her artistic handiwork during the pandemic inspired quarantine in a unique food canvas.

“The stories emerge from my subconscious, in sheer subtleness, from inedible discards. As these emerge in the process of preparing food at home, the ideas take shape on their own,” says Shaheen with a smile. Make way then for blanched tomato skin to masquerade as a redolent Gulmohar flower, or for the malai skimmed off a cup of hot tea as a dramatic streak on the leftover sample wood for her kitchen cabinet makeover. It is an abstract canvas. “The ideas just brew and take form as I play with the ingredients available with me at that moment,” she says. So the appearance of green red and orange chillies off the chopping board brought in the Covid-19 zones of demarcation, with broccoli rejects forming clouds, banana skin bits forming the scape, complete with a cobbled pathway and the mould of garlic lending a dusty sheen to the artwork, charred bell pepper skin lingering post a soup-making session, then purpose themselves into a decidedly intriguing doodle.

Inedible discards and leftover scraps of food form the magic in Shaheen Desai's quarantine food artistry

What lends a supple touch is the poetry that flows in. “The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind,” says Rumi. “A flower blossoms for its own joy,” articulates Oscar Wilde…. these captions shape Shaheen’s creations. Elegantly arranged flowers ruminate in leftover chilli stubs and used tea leaves, as blushing onion peels collude to form petals, mango skin, dry lemongrass stalk and wilted mint leaves dart through the medley with cheery seeds, pistachio skin, lychees

Shilpi Madan for Deccan Herald

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