GastroFest at the Edinburgh Science Festival: from fermentation to head cheese

GastroFest at the Edinburgh Science Festival: from fermentation to head cheese

We pick our way through the delights of the science festival’s food and drink strand for 2015

The nation’s obsession with the process of how food and drink reaches our table doesn’t just stop at the preparation worktop, it seems. As Edinburgh International Science Festival has been proving over the last few years with one-off events scattered throughout its programme and 2014’s inaugural GastroFest strand, the science behind what we consume is just as interesting.

‘We’ve got more events this year, including a greater variety of subjects and more in-depth looks into serious food topics,’ says Eilidh Dunnet, event developer at EISF. ‘We’re also aiming at a wider audience, including more events which will appeal to families. For example, our first big event is SciMart (Summerhall, Sun 5 Apr), a scientific farmer’s market.’ While it’s a typical farmer’s market, the producers – including special guest, restaurateur Paul Wedgwood – will set up demonstrations which illustrate a little of the science that goes into what they do. There will also be talks on the day, as well as a children’s restaurant of ‘food surprises’.

Dunnet flags up a few events which she describes as ‘for the braver and more adventurous’, including Sensory Experimentation (Summerhall, Thu 9 Apr), a session of experiments and tastings designed to explore the relationship between our senses of taste and smell. Meanwhile, Nose to Tail: the Not so Offal Truth (Summerhall, Mon 6 Apr), which promises to ‘actively connect with the food chain as it explores whole-animal eating. Tastings of offal and ‘head cheese’ (boiled pig’s head) will, of course, form part of the experience.

More seriously, Sugar in the Dock (Summerhall, Wed 8 Apr) is a discussion on what sugar does to us and how we can find alternatives, while Fates, Fats and Facts: What Really Drives Food Choices (Summerhall, Sat 11 Apr) applies behavioural psychology to explore why we eat what we do, under the compelling promise to debunk ‘common myths about obesity, mortality, health and weight loss’. Elsewhere, Will You Recognise the Food on Your Plate in 2050? (Summerhall, Wed 8 Apr) looks at how science might alter what our conception of food actually is in the near future.

With Summerhall possessing its own in-house brewery and gin still, those with an interest in alcohol and other drinks will also find themselves well catered for. Among the events in this series are Give in to Fermentation (Summerhall, Wed 15 Apr), which pairs beers with foods to explore the benefits of fermentation; Gin-omics for Generation Gin (Summerhall, Sun 12 Apr) is a tasting event which looks at the science of botanicals; and GastroLab: Molecular Mastery (Summerhall, Sat 11 Apr) applies techniques of molecular gastronomy to cocktail making. There will also be tours of the Pickering’s gin still at Summerhall, while Barney’s micro-brewery is producing its own beer for the festival.

On top of this there will also be a kids’ forage (Gorgie City Farm, Sat 4--Sun 19 Apr) and an adults’ equivalent at the Royal Botanic Garden, as well as a retelling of Goldilocks with interactive porridge-making in 3 Bears (Royal Botanic Garden, Wed 15 & Thu 16 Apr). ‘We know Edinburgh has a big foodie scene already, and I think we offer a new angle which people will appreciate,’ says Dunnet. ‘They can get hands-on in learning about a subject which, let’s face it, affects us all.’

GastroFest, various venues, Edinburgh, Sat 4--Sun 19 Apr.


Science and gastronomy converge at this foodie mini-fest organised by Edinburgh International Science Festival. Food producers, chefs and mixologists help sciencey types explore the experiences of taste, disgust, pleasure and other aspects of consumption through demos, workshops, exhibitions and discussions.