A BOWL of broth with a side syringe of liquid noodles followed by a petri dish of glowing jelly, rounded off with petits fours made from chocolate- covered perfume and a beer flavoured with music.
It may sound like a menu from Bladerunner, but it’s actually a taster of what will be served at an event during this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival.
The theme for the festival, now in its 26th year, is “science at the heart of things” and this year it will feature a mini-festival devoted to the role of science in food and drink.
With an exploding population and fears over the effects of global warming on food supplies, culinary innovation has never been more crucial.
Today’s scientists and nutritionists are experimenting with all sorts of concepts to find sustainable solutions to the problem of feeding the world – some more appetising than others.
The event will look at new ways of providing us with sustainable food.
Scientists have already revealed how insects such as crickets, locusts and mealworms could be alternatives to traditional meat products.
Amanda Tyndall, deputy director of the festival, said: “One of the things implicit in everything we do [at the festival] is the belief that science is integral to all aspects of our lives, from our health and our lifestyle choices through to big world challenges and wonders of the universe.
“Our GastroFest is really our celebration of the fact we all love food and in eating it we are ingesting a fair helping of science, even if we don’t necessarily realise it.”
The event will look at how confectionery has already been created by the latest 3D printing technology and highlight how it will not be long before we see printed steaks – possibly made out of lab-grown meat or reconstituted insect protein.
Highlights of GastroFest, part of the Culture 2014 celebration of the Commonwealth Games, will include a gala dinner featuring ingredients from Commonwealth countries.
Cocktail makers will be shaking up some hi-tech drinks to confuse event-goers’ senses, while the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party explores the intoxicating and mind-altering effects of some food and drink.
Restaurateur Aoife Behan, of Edinburgh-based Jelly & Gin, will be behind the theatrical dining event Sensation on the opening night of the festival.
“It’ll be looking at how you perceive texture, taste, colour, shape, and the impact of these things on flavour,” she said.
“We’ll have some interesting installations going on, such as experiments into how the taste of beer is affected by the music you’re listening to while drinking it.”
Professor Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at Oxford University, has helped with this year’s event, collaborating with chefs including molecular gastronomy pioneer Heston Blumenthal.
Prof Spence has told how he imagines food being served from a tablet computer, saying this would allow diners to choose different coloured backdrops to a plate (or screen) of food and customise its shape, influencing the sensory experience of food.
He claims this could be used to make food seem sweeter to the consumer without adding sugar, for instance, and therefore cut calories.