Food Science Day
Over the next week a varied bunch of reprobates will be posting on the Publog, Proven By Science, TMFD and even The Brown Wedge, the results of the 1st Liz Daplyn Food Science Day. Please be patient with these results, remember the writing up is half of the science, and we should never rush science (or bad puns). Also photos will need to be collated, and hosted for your reading pleasure. But you will find out what fruit can be thrown the furthest.
It was a wonderful day, and out host Tim was a genial and pleasant as a man can be: only banning one piece of science on the grounds that dropping cheese off of his balcony would be a anti-social thing to do to his neighbours. The sun was shining, and whilst the large selection of food could have possibly been to to greater use, what we learnt will be passed down from generation to generation, hopefully aiding our understanding of the mysteries of food and bouze. In a war where the only ballistic missiles are the fruit aisle of Tesco’s, you want us on your side. Special note of thanks to Sarah for photos, Mark C for his throwing arm, Sinkah for comprehensive (if illegible) notes and Robster for complex notes on the fruit – and not dropping the cheese of the balcony BECAUSE WE DID NOT DO THAT.
In particular it was nice to have Rob there because, as mentioned before, the genesis of Food Science Day was a drunken conversation with Liz two months ago. Perhaps it is a strange way to remember someone, exploding eggs and making food just because its name is a silly pun, but I hope this event will become a regular one and will help us commemorate her life. I think we all felt her loss on Sunday; this was exactly the kind of inquisitive, silly yet serious event she would have loved and I hope that in doing this again we can continue to celebrate some of the passions of our friend. We certainly have more that enough experiments to do next year, including the Instant Atomic Buckminster Fuller Egg/Cheeseo-desic Dome.
So let the science begin.
APPARATUS: Frying pan. 4 Eggs. A small avocado.
METHOD: The mashed avocado was smeared on the pan which was then brought to the heat. When the avocado was clearly hot, the lightly beaten eggs were then added. Usual scrambling technique was employed (Chris took over at this point as I prepared a bowl).
RESULTS: The eggs started scrambling as normal, though quickly took on an eerily greenish tinge. However the lack of conventional fat was not a problem, and after a couple of minutes something which resembled perfect, if green, scrambled eggs was arrived at. When served (remember, they still cook out of the pan), the eggs were nice and creamy, if slightly lacking in a key flavour. That key flavour was either discerned as
a) butter (duh!)
b) salt (many of these write up may turn of Tim’s lack of salt)
c) something giving it a kick.
When tabasco was added, they tasted fantastic.
CONCLUSION: Initial conclusion was that step one in proving that avocado was nature’s butter was complete. However some dissent was raised when we found out that Isabel makes scrambled eggs without butter in the first place, and hence the butter is just a flavouring. That said, the green eggs with tabasco was a HIT! Num num!
AIM: To see if avocado is nature’s butter (2). If it is, can you bake a cake with avocado instead of butter?
APPARATUS: Cake tin with removable base, various bowls, electric whisk, blender, sieve, dessert spoon, sharp knife; 4 eggs, 12 oz self-raising flour, 3/4 cup milk, 3 small avocados, a sprinkling of sugar.
How to bake a very basic cake (using civilisation’s butter ie butter itself):
i. Beat 8 oz of sugar into 8 oz of butter, until smooth and fluffy
ii. Add four eggs
iii. Gradually fold in 12 oz of self-raising flour and 3/4 cup of milk
iv. Pour into a cake tin and place in an oven for about an hour.
Straight away an important issue arises: is the goal eatability (is the result CAKEY AND NICE?) or edibility (is the result merely NOT HORRIBLE)? Three decisions had to be made: how much avocado flesh to substitute for the 8 oz of butter; whether to make initial allowance for the distractingly unscientific potential yukness factor of 16 oz of avocado and castor sugar in the mix; and how long to bake. On the assumption that further tests will establish ideal amounts and proportions for DELICIOUS NICE CAKEYNESS, we decided to use our judgment to aim for a minimal eatability.
Hence: in a weight-for-weight substitution, we traded 8 oz of butter for 8 oz of avocado (= flesh of about two and half small avocados). And – since sugarfree cake is no contradiction in terms – we decided on a minimal chefly sprinkle of sugar only (sinkah argued for NONE, brahnie casting the expert’s vote for the sprinkle after a late taste test).
The question of length in the oven was again answered in an ad hoc fashion – by checking by eye and nose and finger-pokage every five minutes after half an hour. In the event, it was in for about 40 mins, at which time we thought it seemed ready enough to take out, allow to cool, divide up and sample.
First discovery: butter beats to softness supremely easily. But avocado doesn’t MELT, and if the avocado is even slightly unripe, squeezage by hand, however diligent, can leave lumpy bits. Nor are whisks and blenders much help. We resorted – once we had added the beaten eggs – to pouring the mix through a sieve and pushing what wouldn’t flow through with the back of a dessert spoon. The mixing of the cake dough then proceeded uneventfully, except that we started to get excited in its late stages because it felt and looked more and more like “proper” cakemix (this was in fact the point brahnie suggested that we add a little sugar after all).
[secret sidenote: in my hand-written notes, 3/4 cup of milk had become 3-4 cups of milk – but luckily brahnie wz advising at this point on consistency, and proportion disaster wz averted] [i only realised this when looking back at the book just now]
The cake – for cake it clearly was, by sight and smell – was removed when it became obvious that it had risen well, at least in the centre, and was browning nicely. It had formed a crust – the upthrusting cakemix below had then cracked this crust, hardening itself as it squeezed through, like fresh magma. After beling allowed to cool for a while in Tim’s bedroom, it was served out to GENERAL
DELIGHT TOLERANT ACCEPTANCE: it had a cornbreadish texture and flavour, went well with other things, and by the end of the evening was almost completely finished (one small remaining slice-worth was thrown away uneaten).
CONCLUSION: Avocado is indeed nature’s butter. This particular mix was a wee bit doughy and uncooked in the middle still, unsurprisingly wasn’t especially flavoursome – it didn’t TASTE of avocado at all – and rose in a problematic way, given its rather leathery crustiness (not at all at edges, maybe too much in centre). As noted above, experiments with proportions (more avocado for moistness?; more baking powder for lightness?) and further tasteable ingredients (sweet OR SAVOURY) would certainly produce excellent cakey or indeed bready results. Also Tim had no salt.
AIM: To see if the BabyBel advert is correct and that BabyBels break the laws of conservation of energy by being able to bounce higher than where they were dropped from.
METHOD: This is a thought experiment because Tim thought it might be anti-social to his neighbours to drop cheese off of his balcony. And they might think he is a menk (which he clearly is as he has no salt in the house). However if we had done it, we would have stationed someone three storeys down to make sure the coast was clear of all neighbours, and then got Rob to drop the BabyBel.
RESULTS: It is difficult to say what the results would be of this thought experiment, nevertheless a close look at a BabyBel suggests no super-elastic qualities to the wax surrounding it. One would imagine when dropped the BabyBel, rather than bouncing to a greater height than whence dropped from, would probably bounce about two inches at most. And the wax would deform a bit. It would be unlikely that the wax would break though, and therefore the BabyBel would remain intact and edible. Here is one we mocked up to look like what we think would happen.
CONCLUSION: If we had done this experiment (which we did not do) it would probably tell us that adverts LIE.
AIM: To establish whether a bad pun can lead you to inventing a delicious new dish. In this case: LYCHEES ON TOAST
APPARATUS: Pestle & mortar; grill
INGREDIENTS: 1 middle-sized tin lychees; 3 slices of bread; 1 slice’s worth of butter for spreading
METHOD: To maximise our chances of making something tasty from a bad pun, three separate forms of lychees on toast are to be attempted.
1. The marmalade method: pulp a number of lychees to a consistency similar to marmalade by crushing in the pestle and mortar, disposing of any excess fluid emerging from the crushed fruit. Squeezing the pulp by hand proves more effective in removing more juice.
Toast one slice of bread, butter it and spread the lychee pulp on it like marmalade, or perhaps jam.
2. The grilled sliced lychee. Toast a piece of bread on one side. Slice some lychees and place them on a single layer on the untoasted side of the slice. Grill the lychee side until the bread around it is toasted.
3. The rarebit. Pulp lychees as per the marmalade method. Toast a piece of bread on one side. Spread the lychee pulp on the untoasted side and grill the lychee side until the bread around it is toasted.
RESULTS: Lychees are mostly juice: when pulping lychees, adding additional lychees to the pulp makes little difference to the total volume of the pulp. In reproducing the experiment, care should be taken not to add too many lychees to the pulping stage, or insufficient fruit will remain for the slicing method.
Taste test were largely positive: the researchers found themselves rather keen on each of the three samples. Least impressive was the slicing method, though that was perhaps due to the lower-than-desirable coverage of the toast with fruity flesh. On the other two samples, opinion was divided.
The marmalade method was helped by buttery yumminess (Use of avocado for this purpose was rejected on the grounds of obvious foulness). The rarebit method had the advantage of slight caramelisation, also leading to an increase in the tasty. None of the three samples lasted long before being wolfed down by greedy scientists. Some researchers suggested that the popularity of the samples was a result of these being the closest thing to real food served thus far in the day, and that people were hungry.
The control group of people who did not like lychees wanted nothing to do with this experiment, but who cares what they think, the lychee-hating freaks?
CONCLUSION: there is not yet enough data to prove that a bad pun will necessarily lead to deliciosity, but the state of delicious can be inspired by poor quality wordplay.
Apparatus: Park. Measuring Device (Interweb journalist Tom E.). Throwing Device (Interweb hardman Mark C.). The following varieties of fruit: apple, apricot, avocado, banana, grape, grapefruit, kiwi, lemon, lime, melon, orange, pear, pineapple, plum, watermelon
Method: Each fruit is pitched as hard as possible by the Throwing Device. After each throw, the Measuring Device is employed to pace the distance from the throw-line to the point of impact and the result recorded accordingly. FT officials ensure consistent throwing and accurate pinpointing of landing sites. Hurling techniques are down to the thrower but largely determined by the shape of the fruit: a simple overarm in most cases but pineapples, being Nature’s hand-grenades, require a more sophisticated swing for maximum distance.
Results: An awful lot of broken fruit. Parts still edible by humans were assembled by SGS into a tasty fruit salad while the remainder was left to Peckham’s wildlife.
THE LEAGUE TABLE:
|Fruit||1st Throw||Tie Break|
|8||Grape, Red, Single||30.5|
|11||Grape, Green, Single||29.5|
|15||Grape, Green, Bunch||17.5|
|17||Grape, Red, Bunch||16|
And, because this is SCIENCE, the same information in an EXCITING GRAPHICAL format:
* The apricot was the clear winner on the day. This may be down to vast quantities of kinetic energy within the stone or its shape facilitating the flow of air across the surface. Unfortunately no other bum-like fruits were available at the time to perform further tests. Further experiments are required to explore the potential of nectarines as sub-orbital vehicles.
* With much of the expectation being on high-density fruits, the performance of the apple was disappointing. However, the dimpled fruits peformed well enough to justify the ‘golf-ball’ hypothesis I’d made up in the pub earlier.
* Bananas do not return to the thrower.
* Red grapes can be thrown further than green grapes individually but not in bunches. This may be an early indication of quantum behaviour in the smallest fruits.
* There are few sights more immediately satisfying than the splattering of a watermelon.
* This experiment provided no opportunities to point out that Tim did not have any salt.
AIM: To confirm that Marmite, when whipped, goes white: as claimed by me for so long that I cannot remember if I made it up or not.
APPARATUS: Small (but surprisingly expensive) jar of Marmite. A bowl. A fork. Lots of men with strong wrists.
METHOD: The Marmite was scooped into a bowl with a fork, and then energetically whipped by yours truly for about five minutes. Having got meringue wrist at this point, the bowl was passed to other gentlemen to show their whipping prowess.
RESULTS: After a few minutes the mixture was getting noticeably lighter. Though slow, by the time the fourth man had his way with the bowl, it was clearly changing colour. It was also taking on an even more glossy sheen and increasing a touch in volume. This point was reached after 15 minutes (note the difference in colour of the marmite on the fork to that in the bowl)
After continued whipping the mixture continued to lighten. After about 30 minutes it reached the colour of butterscotch angel delight (or just butterscotch). Further whipping however increased the glossy sheen but it looked unlikely that we would improve on barley white and get to a pure white.
A second experiment to see if the taste as well as colour was attempted. Whilst many people in a open test claimed that the light Marmite (or Marmite Grand Cru as it had become dubbed) was less bitter, in a blind taste test no-one could tell the difference.
CONCLUSION: With the equipment (and wrists) at hand we did not manage to make the Marmite go white. Nevertheless reaching a state of gloss Barley White Dulux was enough to convince people that the story was, like most of my stories, not a complete fabrication. Furthermore that Marmite Grand Cru takes up more space than Marmite, we suggest the Marmite company take it on as a secondary special edition which they could make even more of a killing on.
AIM: To examine whether Beatrix Potter named Ginger and Pickles, her least-known children’s book, after her favourite condiment.
APPARATUS: Chopping board, sharp knife, small bowl
INGREDIENTS: fresh ginger, gherkins.
METHOD: Obviously gherkins are not the only pickle possible, but we had to start our exploration somewhere. Different brands of gherkin have widely varying flavours, also (so I carefully wrote the specific brand-name in my notes, only I left these at Tim’s house at the end of the FSD, and he cannot read apparently)**. Anyway, peel ginger and chop into tiny cubes; chop pickles (=gherkins) tiny also. Mix and serve.
RESULTS: The above is all very easily done: as a POTENTIAL condiment, Ginger and Pickles is off to a flying start. The Taste Test then revealed something quite unexpected: the flavours of fresh ginger and [insert name here] brand gherkins TOTALLY CANCEL OUT, leaving only the sensations (ie ginger’s pepperiness is still present, but you can’t TASTE it any more). However, one respondent, Mr T.Ewing – who apparently dislikes both ginger and pickle separately – hotly denied this observation: he could taste both, and hence disliked the combo doubly. However people with normal opinions may consider this an outlier response of small consequence and less sense.
CONCLUSION: Ginger and Pickles imparts sensation to eating, so can clearly operate as a condiment. Was it B.Potter’s favourite? Some context is certainly necessary here: the story of Ginger and Picklesis set in her own village, only slightly disguised – the cat Ginger and the dog Pickles run a little shop together, where everyone buys on credit (at Tabitha Twitchet’s rival outlet, which is less popular, you have to pay at point of purchase). Soon the shop is forced to close. The End. On the closing page, Potter writes, “Ginger and Pickles have moved away from the village. Some people think they have not moved far enough away” (my emphasis). Which suggests it might NOT have been a condiment she favoured, at that.
*(old-skool Peter Rabbit gag)
**(Let alone buy salt)
AIM: To determine whether pink wine is just red and white wine mixed together.
APPARATUS: Glasses. Pen. Paper. Sample of food scientists.
INGREDIENTS: One bottle each of cheap red, white and pink wine.
METHOD: A glassful of pink wine was poured, and then red and white wine were mixed together until something that looked like the pink wine was achieved. The proportions of this were approx 1 part red to 3 parts white.
A glass with an equal mix of white and red was also prepared. We did nothing with this, except I think Pete may have ended up drinking it. (At the back of my mind making this third there may have been the thought that the white and red would magically make each other disappear, as they do if you spill red wine on a carpet. To test this properly, though, we would have needed a fourth glass of red wine and some salt. But Tim doesn’t have any salt.)
The two glasses were marked so I could tell which was which. The food scientists were then called in one by one to taste both. They had to then do two things:
– give a mark out of 10 to each wine.
– indicate which they thought was the real pink wine.
RESULTS: Exactly the same number of scientists picked each wine as the correct one, as seen graphically here:
With the exception of Marianna, every single scientist either gave both wines the same mark or gave a higher mark to the wine they thought was the real one. People who were wrong detected on average a much greater difference in quality (Pete in particular was very emphatic on this.)
The mix of red and white was liked more than the real pink wine (see chart below).
1. There is NO scientific difference between pink wine and mixed red and white wine.
2. Except that the fake pink wine is actually NICER.
3. Most people are wine ROCKISTS and believe that a ‘real’ wine will likely be nicer than a ‘fake’ one.
4. The more WRONG about wine people are, the more OPINIONATED they will be.
5. Ergo, DON’T BOTHER buying pink wine again, just pour unused red and white wine in together.
(5a. Unless you’re buying it at POPTIMISM on Friday week.)
(held over from last year in the name of
all that is holy promoting future enquiry)
AIM: To explore the viability of egg polycookery
APPARATUS: Many eggs, hot oil, wooden spoon, boiling saucepan, non-stick frying pan, wok.