SCIENCE – A reason to celebrate food and our digestive systems!

On the 7th of August this year NSW went into lockdown again! It was just seven days prior to National Science Week, and many of us were holding our breath waiting to hear if we would be able to hold our long-awaited real-life events to celebrate FOOD as the theme of National Science Week in 2021. The calendar was peppered with events like an 8-course degustation menu at Tattersalls Hotel Armidale, a Science of Beer workshop, Markets in the Mall of Tasting Plates and a Science in the Club night. Of all of them, Science in the Club was the only one able to transfer to an online format, so we did gather online for a quiz night to remember!

A compensatory goodie bag was delivered to all the ticket holders to the degustation dinner at Tattersalls. Inside was a blue muffin for the Blue Poo Project and edible insects, as well as news of a possible rescheduling.

As luck and COVID restrictions would have it, we WERE able to reschedule this wonderful evening, A Gastronomical Journey through seven courses designed by Tattersalls Head Chef Jean-Luc Morcellet around artificial, invertebrate, liquid, plant, raw, meat and fruit food groups. So on the 20th of November, more than three months after National Science Week, 40 guests gathered in the beautiful upstairs function room at Tattersalls Hotel Armidale to celebrate science, food, our digestive systems and real-life events!

Guests enjoyed drinks, food and company while being immersed in the world of food science. Gastroenterologist Dr Richard Charlesworth and microbiologist Dr Gal Winter gave presentations on food of the future and hot topics in gastroenterology; we learned about artificial meats, different ways to produce protein and the complexities and unknowns of our own microbiome.

Gal and Richard also facilitated the digestion of the seven courses by Gazza the Gut, an artificial digestive system, in real time! Diners could view the digestion process, ask questions and get up close and personal with Gazza throughout the evening, and the whole thing culminated in the ultimate dinner taboo – a giant poop on the table! While the digestive process on the night didn’t include chemical aspects to digestion, it was an authentic demonstration of the mechanical processes that fuel our bodies. Gazza, like the human guests sitting at tables, enjoyed the diversity of foods on the menu, and mentioned that he hadn’t eaten snails before!

A quiz accompanied each course, with questions ranging from species of snails to meat consumption in Australia. The lucky prize winner at the end took home a cooler bag of crafty food tools and utensils.

We were lucky to also have join us Jackie Randles of Inspiring NSW, the Government initiative that supports and funds Regional Science Hubs and science engagement events across NSW since 2011. Jackie travels to regional events when she can, and this one was her first foray into the New England world of science engagement. It was a pleasure to showcase our local science, talent and venues for Jackie.

Everyone agreed that they would return to an event like this, and used words like fun, interesting, social, informative, creative, relaxed, insightful and delicious to describe the evening.

A huge thank you to Tattersalls Hotel Armidale who facilitated a flawlessly timed and stunning menu; the chefs, waitstaff and managers.

This event was organised and hosted by UNE and funded by Inspiring Australia’s National Science Week fund.