Culinary sustainability: Making paintings with food items and leftovers

Ghada Abdel-Kader , Wednesday 8 Sep 2021

Instead of throwing away food leftovers, artist Esraa Hassanein uses them to make creative designs and decorate food plates

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milk powdered, star anise and glitter (All Photos courtesy of Esraa Hassanein)

Egyptian artist Esraa Hassanein chose a different angle to express her love for art, food, and sustainability.

Using leftovers and food items, the 26-year-old artist — who was born in Qalioubiya — creates unique works of art.

Esraa, who has a bachelor’s degree from the Psychology Department of the Faculty of Education had a conversation with Ahram Online about her creations and what inspires her.

“Even though I did not study art or design in university, I have loved drawing since I was a young child. Since a very young age, my mother always encouraged me to draw sketches,” she recalls.

Her mother taught her the art of recycling objects as a child. “We did not throw away common household items. Things like empty bottles, cans, boxes, milk bottles, and plastic bags have always been of good use to us. It is a lot of fun. I used waste materials to design creative arts and crafts,” she said smiling.

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Mona Lisa drawing with coffee beans

Instead of throwing away food leftovers, she uses them to make creative designs and decorate food plates. 

In high school, she was also encouraged by her art teacher, who started teaching her various decorative methods using floral patterns.

During the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, she transitioned to photography. The subject of her first photo shoot was her mother’s plant collection at home.

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Egyptian Olympic winners in Tokyo games chili hot sauce, ketchup, white chocolate, cocoa, mustard, coffee and tea

“I received good reviews and positive feedback from my followers on social media,” she said.

“They couldn’t believe that these photos were taken by an ordinary smart phone rather than a professional camera,” she added.

This was her turning point as a food artist; she kept looking for unique creative ideas for her photo shoots and came up with the idea of drawing sketches using food items like powdered milk, coffee beans, tea, sugar, cocoa, and white chocolate.

The list of materials used in her paintings include gelatin, food colouring, edible glitter, spices, salt, rice, popcorn, beans, lentils, hibiscus, tomato paste, Oreo cookies, fruits, and vegetables, as well as mayonnaise, mustard seeds, and dried roses.

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Van Gogh the Starry Night with coffee and tea

In her first masterpiece, she drew a hand holding a camera and coloured it with powdered milk, star anise, and food glitter.

“I am constantly looking for different ideas and trying to use distinct and different materials to make designs and sketches,” she says.

She uses different solid surfaces like paper, walls, food plates, blackboards, book covers, or any hard surface really.

Hassanein truly relies on her imagination. “It allows me to sketch out unusual ideas. I observe things all the time. I do not take references,” she confirmed.

Her art is based on real life inspirational stories, situations, and experiences from everyday life.

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Egyptian actor Omar Sharif and actress Faten Hamama

The amount of time required to complete every work of art varies from one to another. It depends mainly on the level of detail of the piece. “If it is a simple project, it takes around two days. If it is full of details, then it takes around a week,” she explained.   

“All my drawings possess high quality, they retain their colours and do not deteriorate over time as long as you take care of them,” she commented.

Hassanein does not use complicated drawing implements but rather simple ones. She employs tools like a medical autopsy kit, tweezers, scissors, brushes, spoons, shish tawook skewers, and miniature knives.

“I hope that one day my talent will reach the whole world,” she concluded.

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