Welcome back to part 2! See here for part 1.
5.58pm. A quick beverage pH check before the next round of experiments: the acidity of prosecco is 3, Badger’s Fursty Ferret is 4, a substance known as ‘Sainsbury’s Craft Brewed Lager’ is also 4.
Theory: Which country makes the best ham? It’s probably Spain, isn’t it?
Practical: Having selected hams from five different Western European countries, Marna dishes them out to the room, assigning pseudonyms to each piggy friend to ensure secret scientific testing conditions.
Ham #1: Thor
It’s very smoky – “it tastes of Glastonbury”, says Katie. Mark thinks it’s too salty, as do Rob and Meg. “BURNING”, says Sarah. Carsmile says “Bamberg”, and many jokes about Battenberg ensue. “Bonfire smokiness,” says Pete. “Teenage bedroom.” Jen says the rind is too leathery, but the bit in the middle is silky. Mark says the mouthfeel is “like soap with a thick skin.”
Ham #2: Trotty McTrotter
“Satisfying on the nose,” says Sarah. It’s making Kat’s mouth water. “Fatty, comforting and delicious.” Katie, who can no longer by any stretch of the imagination be called a vegan, states that “ham is strange”. We agree that this is both false and an understandable reaction. “Ham’s come on a long way – texturally it’s not what I was expecting,” she expands. “Fatty in a good way,” says Meg. “MELTY fat. And it’s made the Riesling taste like blood!” IT HAS INDEED. “Very nice,” says wine. (Editor’s note: any further reports are to be taken with a pinch of wine.)
Ham #3: Robot Tabby Face III Part Porc
It looks very squished and super fatty. Marna isn’t sure it’s survived the bike journey up to Laboratoire Crouch End. “It’s compressed anyway, mmm lovely fat”. Ham #3 may smell amazing, but the consensus is that the taste is far less exciting. “Chewy. And slippery!” announces Sarah. Meg agrees. Pete thinks it’s Spanish: “There’s an edge of rancidity.” Sarah says it’s a different type of ‘country’: “The last one was more manure, this one is a humid barnyard.” Pete says it would go well with a blue cheese. Jen posits that if it’s not Italian she will eat her hat (Jen is not wearing a hat). Mark says “LOVELY LOVELY Fat.” Rob says he expected more from it. Julia has abstained from this ham.
We are now listening to a cover version of Toto’s “Africa”. Sciencey!
Ham #4: Trotterpaws
“That’s proper ham, that is,” announces Ewan. Lucy says it tastes of fat. Katie says it’s the ham of her youth, which locates it somewhere on the Eastern end of the Central line, but after some deliberation she plumps for Norfolk. Kat however thinks it’s from Wiltshire. “It could have done with being a bit thicker,” says Carsmile. Tim is sticking it straight into his mouth. Pete says he’s had better British ham, but “they’re all good hams, we’re grading on a scale here.” Sarah would love it pressed into a sandwich. Marna suggests a nice smear of Coleman’s as a serving suggestion. Your narrator is uncertain where the apostrophe in Colemans’ should go, if indeed there is one at all.
Ham #5: Tanqueray
It’s DARK. Pete immediately says this one is from Spain. But he said that for #3 too! “There’s a lot to it – I’d eat it with a nice bit of manchego and a glass of sherry.” Ewan says we’re definitely in Spain (we are definitely in Crouch End). Kat thinks it’s very greasy, but flavoursome. “Cheesy edge,” says Sarah. “Cheesy in a parmesan type of way,” says Lucy. Everyone is balancing it on their hands. “It’s delicious,” says Tim. The last word from our ex-vegan: “This the kind of ham which I am supposed to think its the best – but it isn’t!” She looks very triumphant.
While Marna tots up the scores, there is some chat about where the pigs came from: Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey. Did Trotterpaws or Thor eat the most acorns? EXPEDITION REQD.
Conclusion: The results are in! The overall winner is Tanqueray (Spain), followed by Trotterpaws (England), Trotty McTrotter (France), Robot Tabbyface III Part Porc (Italy) and finally Thor (Germany). THEORY PROVED!
6.01pm. Mark brings out some ghastly substances perched atop some Ryvitas.
WHICH CHEESE IS BEST TO BOIL?
Theory: Or indeed, is ANY cheese edible after boiling?
Practical: Using a combination of boiling (in a makeshift clingfilm bag) and steaming (in a steamer) each cheese, Mark S sets out to destroy us all.
First up is the cheesestring. As these seem to be pre-boiled anyway, it acts as a control substance. However, it has got bigger and more aggressive. Perhaps even menacing? Rob volunteers to taste it; we doubt his sanity. “Boiling has made it better, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.”
Sarah declares the boiled emmental “the worst thing ever”. Pete tries some and pulls an extremely worrying face. “It’s chewy like chewing gum, but heaven compared to the stilton,” says Katie, whose tolerance for the emmental is boggled at by the rest of the room. She prefers it to the steamed stilton: “not very nice, grainy – unmistakeable but too harsh.” Apparently the texture lets it down. Marna thinks the stilton is not terrible, and really quite pleasant compared to the emmental (“one of the worst things I’ve ever put in my mouth”).
Rob tries the manchego: “It reminds me of something… cheese on toast?” “Not very nice cheese on toast,” says Tim. “Last night I boiled some mancheeegoooo,” sings Pete. The boiled camembert is judged to be ‘fine’ by Sarah, though Marna is sceptical. Steamed Port Salut is also deemed ‘fine’. Are we seeing a rise in our boiled cheese tolerance levels? “It’s a bit more processed than usual, but goes well with Ryvita,” says Katie. Boiled Port Salut has a weaker flavour than the steamed. “Better than the bloody stilton.”
ALKALINE FOOD ALERT: boiled camembert! Following exposure to boiled cheese, Sarah also becomes alkaline. Dudes have started rating each other by licking the paper, but no-one else is in the blue spectrum.
Boiled parmesan however provokes a strong negative reaction in the room: “I understand now why people do not boil cheese,” says Katie. Mark says we went into this with a predjuice that could not be shaken. “The mouthfeel is grainy but otherwise it’s ok.”
Marna warily tests the pH of the steamed feta (it’s about a 7). Feta appears relatively resilient to the boiling process. Rob gives it a go – thumbs up! Katie likes it too: “It’s harmonious with the Ryvita. Write down that Marna is wrong about emmental.” Pete’s had enough and refuses to eat any more boiled cheese.
Conclusion: While feta and camembert have come out the best, there are many in the room who have had their hitherto unwavering dedication to the scientific method CRUSHED as a result of this experiment. Tim is making a bad face. A sad face. Basically this whole room is full of the wailing and gnashing of cheese.
Theory: Have Hula Hoops got smaller or have our fingers got bigger?
Practical: Lacking basic scientific apparatus such as a time machine or indeed a ruler, the best we can manage is sticking Hula Hoops on our little fingers and taking a picture.
Conclusion Meg’s tats are still awesome.
7.18pm. Carsmile puts his thumb up Tim’s ring; it doesn’t touch the sides.
COTTAGE PIE PIE / PIZZA PIE PIE
Theory: In a sense all theories are a pie. (See pie debates passim)
Practical: Tim makes the cottage pie pie, Lucy and Alan try out the pizza pie pie.
Tim says that the shortcrust pastry sucked out the moisture of the inner part. There seems to be no particular advantage to this science apart from that the Cottage Pie Pie is now DEFINITELY a pie under all valid definitions of pie. Sarah loves the pie due to her “Northern Roots”. Carsmile PREACHES about pastry. Everyone else is relieved that there is something edible to eat following the cheese horror.
The Pizza Pie Pie is a resounding success. Ewan puts two thumbs up. “All pizzas should be this way.” Carsmile asks if he’s ever had a calzone. Katie suggests a local lo-cal calzone zone-y (this joke = nicked off Parks & Rec). Native Chicagoan Jen says it’s not quite the same as a Chicago pizza pie. “This one has less cheese, perhaps to its credit.” Kerry judges the artichoke the most successful part. Dudes are enjoying this pie so much that there’s not quite enough for everyone, not that your narrator was bitter or anything (*sob*)
Conclusion: It is agreed that this particular piece of science was neither Snack nor Wrong. A very unusual occurrence for Food Science Day.
CRISP POWDER NONSENSE
Theory: What happens when you add water to Wotsits powder?
Practical: Adding powder from various crushed crisps (Quavers, Frazzles, Hula Hoops, Doritos) to water, testing the solution/ph etc and observing what happens in general.
There were a lot of boring notes for this one, so to summarise: adding 2ml of water to 0.5g of crushed crisps produces minging-looking substances which GROW BY THEMSELVES and which you can turn upside-down and they won’t move except Doritos, the scariest of the crisps (also the one that most looks like vom). The Frazzles monster definitely tried to escape.
Conclusion: Actual science, but pretty gross (i.e. hypotheses proved). No-one dares eat the contents of the plastic cups so the experiment is rendered null and void viz no longer food. Evaluation: must try with Wotsits next time (as per original experiment stipulation) as there weren’t any in Crouch End Waitrose today.
CAKE, ONCE REMOVED
Theory: What happens when you miss out the Vital Ingredient in a cake?
Practical: Rob and Julia make eight different chocolate cakes in the microwave, omitting an ingredient each time (eggs, fat, flour, baking powder, chocolate etc). Plus some tasty brownies which are missing nothing at all.
The No-Choc cake has Kahlua in instead but doesn’t really taste like Kahlua. The No-Egg cake is basically powder, but Kerry likes it anyway. The No-Sugar is deemed “well minging”. Meg’s favourite is the No-Baking-Powder one, Ewan likes it too, along with the No-Flour (pure hit of sugary chocolatey goodness). Kat also likes the No-Flour. Pete takes a gigantic mouthful of the No-Sugar one (i.e. all of it). It’s reacting with his mouth “like the everlasting porridge pot”, which is very amusing for everyone watching. It has coated his tongue and is slowly turning him into a cake. “It’s like Arm and Hammer toothpaste.”
The brownies taste nice even if they’re not super scientific.
Conclusion: No-one can agree, but the No-Flour cake seems to have been least-unpopular, and as most schoolchildren will tell you, that’s the safest place to be.
7.24pm. Armand Hammer tried to buy Arm & Hammer because he was sick of people asking if he was down with toothpaste innit.
GRAVY OUT OF THE CUPBOARD
Theory: The North?
Practical: Gravy is made. Biscuits are accompanied. Rich Tea or Digestive? WHICH WILL WIN.
“Mmmmm, my Gravy Cupboard”, says Tim. “Hob Nob problems.” Sarah says its good with the Hobnob. “Rich Tea equals no.” Carsmile says the gravy is not thick enough. Meg says the Rich Tea was better than the Hobnob. Many people refuse to venture over to that side of the room, thus further details are in scant supply.
Conclusion: The North.
7.30pm. Tim recommends a bar in Antwerp called KULMINATOR which is yellow and needs to be pronounced like you are a robot from the future sent back in time to KILL.
7.34pm. Katie has requested some sellotape for Mystery Science. Tim and Carsmile recommend we eat some Bitterballen! These are meat-filled croquette type balls which go very well with beer from the Low Countries.
Time for the final experiment of the evening! A special mission to the corner shop (to buy actual drinking wine) has made a late addition to the agenda.
PINK WINE CHALLENGE
Theory: Unknown – possibly that wine-tasting is a bunch of wank?
Practical: We are all handed two tiny plastic cups of pink liquid, poured by Marna from a disguised wine bottle (hence the sellotape request).
“WAR OF THE ROSÉS!” exclaims Kerry.
Rose 1: Kat refuses to believe this is actually wine, as it tastes completely un-alcoholic, like watered-down Ribena. Meg and Katie think it tastes of melon. Tim thinks its Vitamin Water, with a hint of turps or vinegar. Ewan does think it has alcohol in it.
Rose 2: Also not wine! Meg says strawberry. Kat think it’s just Ribena again. Pete says Mad Dog 20/20.
The big reveal! It’s Peter Capaldi. Wine 1 is Zinfandel. Wine 2: alcohol free Zinfandel.
Most Edible: Hams Of The World, Non-science Brownie, both of the Definitely A Pie Pies, Gothic Garlic, Custard Cream shake.
Least Edible: No-Egg Cake (“No!!” protest Meg and Lucy), Boiled Stilton (“Shudder,” shudders everyone), Pulverised Crisp Nonsense (“Let’s never speak of this again,” says Kat).
Most Sciency: Cakes Once Removed, Pulverised Crisp Nonsense (there were loads of measurements, honest)
Least Sciency: Hula Hoop Fingers (forgot to have time machine)
And that about wraps it up for another year. The main conclusion we can take away from all this is that you should really, really, REALLY never boil cheese. Especially Emmental. Thanks to everyone who took part, and to Pete for hosting!