The Oxford Food Symposium on Food & Landscapes; a breath of fresh air…?!

smog menu smog2smog3 smog4

It was with great joy that my dad stumbled upon reading The Times Saturday (book) ‘Review’ section and passed it to me today; suggesting that I read the following article: ‘Atomic sex, the Fartomaniac and Einstein’s fridge’ (!) This is a book review based on ‘Caesar’s last breath; the epic story of the air we breath’ by Sam Kean (which seems a fairly jolly recount of how breathing and air are historically linked, inc. the fact that it might be possible for us all to be breathing in the air which Caesar once inhaled & exhaled.) The reviewer, James Marriott, shares social historical facts from 1830 when laughing gas was routinely used (as a prescription for scolding wives, among other things) and various anecdotes inc the French ‘performer’ whose routine was based upon his flatulence and how Einstein invented a fridge. All of which reminded me of a lecture I recently attended at the Oxford Food Symposium: Landscapes held at St Catherine’s College.

This article also reminds me of the laughing gas used relentlessly at the Glastonbury Music Festival (their users leaving behind the shiny, tiny canisters behind for litter pickers & Worthy Warriors \ permaculture Village Green volunteers to pick up.. although I found far fewer used canisters this year than in any other previous year). As for the idea of festival flatulence;  I won’t bother you with reporting on that…

Preferring to divulge in the delights that was On Friday 7th – 9th July a group of over 250 delegates from 45 countries arrived to participate and share in a love of international food & landscapes. 🙂 some kind of heaven here, surrounded by a crowd of international food historians, authors, publishers, professors, chefs, inventors etc. Happy, heady days. Not only surrounded by great teachers but also meals & menus. On Friday I entered into the realm of WikiEdits again, arranged by the British Library’s head curator, Polly Russell, where we learnt again, more about the ways to engage an audience by having new female entries on Wikipedia. I found out about my entry on Lady Eve Balfour.

At our meal times, diners were treated to an array of fresh produce, from selected countries inc. Ireland, Greece & Armenia. In fact, I opted out of the Irish dinner as it contained beef ‘from nose to tail’, preferring the plant-based delights at the local Japanese restaurant, Edamame around the corner. The college was beautiful in its cubist architecture; a far flung away from the gothic images of Christ church college. There, in the grounds, we sampled the brandy, whiskey (complete with Irish singing & Seamus Heaney recitals) wines and ciders from Ireland and later Armenia… It was not a time to be sober, I felt (however, afterwards, I conceded that this was debatable)… We sampled the finest array of fresh olives which reminded me of my time working at Borough Market.

In fact, Borough Market isn’t the quietest, most tranquil place to spend a Saturday, so it felt a little intrusive (but not much).

Air quality inventiveness with meringues 

The obtuse lecture which amazed me the most, was regarding meringues, made from egg whites whipped in different air quality zones. Egg ethics aside, this is a fascinating subject… one which began by the observation that when whisked & beaten, egg whites are amazing in their air-trapping ability. So when one scientist discovered that their quality understandably varied depending upon the air quality involved, she set about to engage in a project for meringues to be made in cities around US with different air quality levels. Smog meringues were born, and sampled at stalls in local markets! See the above images… consumers thought that the small black specks might be tasty vanilla bean… when in fact, it was simply, Smog, from LA… Aeroir: air flavours; trapped within egg white!



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