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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Feast your eyes on the future of food

Xaviere Masson sips Bloody Mary vapours
Xaviere Masson sips Bloody Mary vapours
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

GLOWING zebrafish sushi, grey squirrel stew and barbequed worms are unlikely to tingle the tastebuds of your average dinner guest.

But a new science exhibition is exploring how insects and invasive species, such as the rampant grey squirrel, might just be the food of the future.

"The idea behind the show was to help eaters ask questions about their food, think about what they are putting in their mouth and how it affects larger systems," Zack Denfeld said.

He is one of the artists and curators behind the 'Edibles' exhibition at Trinity College's Science Gallery at Pearse Street in Dublin.

"There are a quarter of a million, maybe more, edible plants on the planet and we only really consume a couple of hundred of them," he added.

"Half of the plants we consume are just four -- corn, wheat, rice and potatoes.

"What we choose based on flavour and how things look really affect the surface of the planet."

Visitors with curious palates can taste varieties of edible Irish seaweed, inhale a mist of mutant peppermint, and crawl through the interior of a giant inflatable stomach to experience the feeling of being swallowed at the exhibition, which runs until April 5 next.

Mr Denfeld, who created the exhibition with Cat Kramer from the research unit, The Centre for Genomic Gastronomy, used transgenic -- or genetically modified -- zebrafish, which literally glow in the dark and are sold as pets in the US as well as to restaurants to make glowing sushi.


The fish were initially bred to help detect water pollution and scientists hoped they would light up in the presence of severe pollution.

"I've put my money where my mouth is and tasted it," Mr Denfeld joked.

"It is a bit of a satire on the commercialisation of the life sciences. It is our way of using humour to discuss a serious issue.

"Despite what a scientist or a government might want, people are always going to innovate with technology and make it their own."

Daily specials will be put up on the board at the gallery, where guests will be able to sink their teeth into a vegan version of the banned French dish of the small ortolan songbird, which are captured alive, force-fed, drowned in Armagnac and eaten whole. For €3 guests will be able to sample the unusual dishes on the menu during the twice-daily feeding times.

"They are artworks in themselves. They are more about small tasters, it is not a full meal. The idea is to give the visitor a visual and taste experience -- a chance to eat the art and eat the science rather than just look at it and touch it, so they are using different senses of smell and taste," Mr Denfeld said.

And, if there are any budding Heston Blumenthals out there contemplating capturing a bushy-tailed creature, they can always take home a recipe for squirrel stew.

Irish Independent

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