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Reinventing the Darwin Feast

Yesterday was the birthday of the great Charles Darwin, massive procrastinator and close observer of worms. In recognition of this (and because I'd had the idea a while ago and it would not let me go until I had at least tried to bring it into reality) I decided to have some friends around for a modern Darwin Feast. A traditional Darwin Feast -- more strictly a Phylum Feast, based on a club Darwin attended at university -- involves killing and eating as many wildly different animals as possible.

Mine, as you can see below, took a different tack; I wanted to see if it was possible in a single evening to eat your way through our planet's evolutionary history. The answer seems to be yes, although we didn't stop eating until 2am!



Click through for a bigger view or go under the cut for an annotated menu, complete with preparation notes.

Cocktail : Hadean Sunrise
This sunrise mixed cocktail used blackcurrant squash and a cloudy dark red juice to suggest lava. As we were pre-organic at this point accompanying snacks either looked like stones (dried papaya) or were literally inorganic (Black Salt). I forgot the swirl of cometary dust on the cocktail (oops) and the sulphurous tang of Black Salt divided opinion!

Starter : Primordial Soup with a late heavy bombardment
Primordial Soup was uncomplicated -- Beef Consomme heated to boiling point over the fondue. We cooled it with a comet -- condiment mixes in balls of crushed ice. This had a lot more impact on the flavour of the soup than I anticipated, and as everyone had a different condiment mix there was much swapping and tasting.

Starter : Stromatolite stack with Blue-green Algae
Blinis layered with spinach omelette, the sauce was raw spinach blended with blueberry, blue curaçao and orange zest. Much discussion about Stromatolites.

Amuse : Snowball Earth and the Cambrian Explosion
A scoop of lemon sorbet with a hole poked into the middle made snowball earth. Drop Pop Rocks into the middle for the explosion. Massive fun, everyone should eat this.

Fish : Burgess Shale Canapé
Puff pastry layers with tasty treats between the layers, pretending to be fossils. I went for cockles, brown shrimp and the marvellously primitive-looking fluffy leaves from the top of fresh fennel.

Fish : The Spineless Sea
Squid, prawn, shrimp, garlic, chilli, udon, flash fried. We were drinking sparkling white with this which seemed to go quite well.

Fish : Big Fish eat Little Fish
We celebrated the arrival of vertebrate life with an arrangement of preserved fish (in size order, from Salmon to Anchovy) on a "sea" of blanched savoy cabbage.

Cocktail : Let’s not eat insects
I'd decided at the outset not to include things just for the macho/sake of it -- no snails, no frogs legs, no insects. But then I remembered Campari, and offered a cocktail for those willing to tolerate the bitterness of the beetle harvest. Campari, gin and bitter lemon, served with a sprig of rosemary, with its ancient-looking leaf arrangement.

Mammal-like reptiles : What came first, the Dinosaur or the Egg?
Here's a poser. All of these went. Nothing analogous exists today. But they laid eggs, and eggs were a very important evolutionary advance (and way less icky to celebrate than eyes) so I decided to do a stupid dish I've been wanting to try for ages - baked quails eggs in half potatoes. Served with a mini boar sausage in a nest of shredded softened lemony leeks.

Mammal-like reptiles : Boiled Glossopteris heart with Pangaean dust
All the vegetation went, too. Never mind, any excuse to eat a Globe Artichoke! Chilli Salt and Tsire Powder on the side.

Cocktail : The Permian Triassic Extinction Event
A twist on the champagne screensaver, using Red sparkling wine and Cinnamon Aftershock. Warming!

Meat : Therapod Dinosaur with Fruits of the Primeval Forest
Therapods survived, became birds, and the bird I know that most resembles a Velociraptor is a bundle of slashing claws and thrashing feathers called a Guinea Fowl. Served with the potato scoopings from an earlier course and seasoned with Ras al Hanout, Marigolds, rose petals, blueberries, dates and pomegranate seeds.

Meat : The Ascent of Mammals (and grasses)
I'd made up tiny patties of beef, lamb and pork earlier. They fried quickly enough while we debated the importance of Grasses -- which were represented by Bulgar, prepared (once again!) earlier.

Cocktail : The Ice Age
No-one was up for another cocktail, which is a shame because this one would have been lovely. Raspberry vodka and gin over lots of ice, with just enough blue curaçao to lend it a glacial hint, served with a pinch of crushed cardamom seeds. Serve very short so you can have them over and over again.

Dessert : The Paragon of Animals
Brain-shaped jelly with sugar letters floating in it, garnished with (battery powered) fairy lights and edible (rice paper) scrolls inscribed with short statements about humanity (in artificial cochineal this time -- which works surprisingly well with a dip pen). The brain was a bit flattened, but tasted good. All the scrolls were eaten.

Dessert : The Advantages of Civilisation
Cheese and chutney. There was going to be ham, too, but we were all onto token slivers of food by this stage. I still have most of the cheese and we didn't even open the chutney.

Dessert : The Advance of Technology
Machine-made biscuits, including the amazing Tuc cracker and some highly artificical-looking stuff I found at Lidl.

Afterwards : Three Pinnacles of Human Achievement
No prize! for guessing that this was chocolate, port and coffee/tea.

Many thanks to geroge, ginger_princess, oxfordhacker, tinyjo, damiancugley and of course the lovely timscience for help, advice, encouragement, cheer-leading, t-shirts, alcohol and heroic eating.

I'd also like to thank David Attenborough, whose Life on Earth was playing in the next room throughout.

Comments

( 28 worms — Feed the birds )
la_marquise_de_
13th Feb, 2011 17:21 (UTC)
That's sounds wonderful and rather over-facing.
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:23 (UTC)
a bad moment whle smashing the comets
indeed, I nearly baulked
emperor
13th Feb, 2011 17:38 (UTC)
Epic, in all senses of the word. Bravo!
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:25 (UTC)
I'm kind of full now. Still full
tozocomic
13th Feb, 2011 17:44 (UTC)
Wow. I'd have been extinct after eating all that.
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:25 (UTC)
a morning to be faced with much resolve
I was not at my best this morning, no...
uitlander
13th Feb, 2011 17:54 (UTC)
Magnificent!

*applause*
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:26 (UTC)
why thankyou!
*bows*
(Deleted comment)
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:30 (UTC)
you must!
It's got a totally unique mouth-feel. It's incredible! And also totally vegan
rainboworchid
13th Feb, 2011 18:05 (UTC)
Briliant.
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:31 (UTC)
I also have a pretty brilliant pile of leftovers! Mmmmm!
girlycomic
13th Feb, 2011 18:10 (UTC)
Don't know where you find the inspiration and energy. Stunning!
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:33 (UTC)
I was ideastruck
It wouldn't let me be till it was done :)
motodraconis
13th Feb, 2011 18:18 (UTC)
Brilliant! Heston eat your heart out - or someones heart anyway!
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:18 (UTC)
(also might have suffered from the let's not eat effect)
I did have a heart in the freezer, but it's too slow a cook for a night I had to time so tightly

jinty
13th Feb, 2011 18:50 (UTC)
Almost as epic as the Lord of the Rings feast! And actually sounds more successful qua food. Fantastic!
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:16 (UTC)
it was a bit less stew, stew, stew than the LOTR eating and drinking party. Also, all on one floor.... better!
ingaborg
13th Feb, 2011 19:08 (UTC)
That sounds absolutely amazing! I hope you took a lot of photos!
cleanskies
13th Feb, 2011 21:15 (UTC)
I fail at camera
tragically, none.... especially sad in the case of the brain....
jinty
13th Feb, 2011 22:29 (UTC)
Re: I fail at camera
Think you were kinda busy! It was surely the job of the guests to attend to that, if anyone...
timscience
14th Feb, 2011 07:51 (UTC)
Re: I fail at camera
damian took photos so thre may still be some
concourse
14th Feb, 2011 08:58 (UTC)
That sounds thoroughly awesome!
cleanskies
14th Feb, 2011 19:32 (UTC)
it was
the awesome leftovers are going into pie as I type. Nom!
buddleia
14th Feb, 2011 12:49 (UTC)
Green with awe and envy - sounds fantastic! Truly Darwinian, I think Stephen Jay Gould would have made huge changes to your layout.
cleanskies
14th Feb, 2011 19:31 (UTC)
ah yes -- the evolutionary ladder
He would most certainly disapprove. So parochial! We were eating bacteria all evening, though (without noticing) so at least we got something right.

Maybe I should do a Gouldian revision for next year... hmmmm
damiancugley
14th Feb, 2011 13:13 (UTC)
Photos
cleanskies
14th Feb, 2011 19:32 (UTC)
Re: Photos
YAYYYYYYYYY! Brain!
puppytown
14th Feb, 2011 20:00 (UTC)
*applause*
( 28 worms — Feed the birds )