Dream Liqueurs, Bum Sandwiches and Dodo Cake: The Experimental Food Society Spectacular and V&A Talks

On the 22nd, I met up with friends on Brick Lane to attend the Experimental Food Society‘s exhibition, or as they deemed it, “Spectacular.” After seeing a horrendously long queue full of young, fashionable folk, I was a bit alarmed and worried about the event… until I realised the line was actually for the American Apparel rummage sale that was going on, and not a bunch of foodie fashionistas eager to try camel milk ice cream.

I was so relieved.

Rather than being right on Brick Lane, the Experimental Food Society Exhibition was spread out between three spaces in the Old Truman Brewery housing a motley group of coffee aficionados, cake artists, sugar sculptors, food-based model-makers, bakers and all sorts. For the £5 door fee, there were a large number of sights and delights available for the Spectacular visitor in the three locations, with additional things for sale, like these awesome cake pops from Pop Bakery I regret not buying, especially considering my crazy obsession fondness for cats and catlike things.

Although maybe the reason I didn’t indulge in buying a cat pop may have been because I might not have eaten it, but rather would have given it a name and saved it… until a mouse got to it, which would have been a funny sort of justice in a way.

The Experimental Food Society Spectacular was quite an experience, and the people showing their art, crafts, wares and talents were a diverse bunch. My personal reactions to the different works exhibited varied generally along the lines of:

  1. “Oh, neat!”
  2. “Oooh…”
  3. “Whaaat?!”
  4. “Whoa!!”
  5. “Um, okay…?”
  6. “Dude, what the fuck?”

I would say that the three friends who I was with probably had a similar set of reactions, although there were probably variants as to what reaction was applied to each display.

Overall, though, the Spectacular was really a great venue to see amazing things created with foodstuffs, like Scott O’Hara’s American Harpie Eagle made out of the same stuff we dump in our morning coffees or tea (see Reaction #4 above). I found myself staring at the pointy beak of O’Hara’s bird and thinking about how purposeful the beak was for tearing flesh, then remembering that this particular specimen of avian creature is made entirely out of sugar.

But I still couldn’t get the image of the sugar eagle tearing through flesh out of my head, because, by god, it looks so damn real.

O’Hara’s bird came with a stern sign telling us not to touch, but there were other tables that we could interact, purchase and/or taste. In addition to the aforementioned awesome cake pops by Pop Bakery, Pomp De Franc‘s tiny cakes inside quail eggs were for sale, creating a puzzling image of an egg topped with a dollop of icing and chocolates. Also for sale were the cupcakes of Petit Pois, that were “secretly made with vegetables,” two per pack. Also for sale were scoops of camel milk ice cream from the food truck outside one of the venues. Ginger’s Comfort Emporium were selling cones of camel milk ice cream in flavours of plain and rose & lemon. I purchased a cone of the rose & lemon flavour to share with my friends Ella and James, and it was surprising how creamy the ice cream was. Ella, who wasn’t a great fan of flower-flavoured foodstuffs, eventually came around to enjoying the ice cream after I had to pass it on due to my lactose-intolerancy worries–although delicious, I could tell eating the whole cone would have caused me, erm, problems later. But it had to be tried, because, well, when would be the next time one would be able to try it?

The same ethos of “Hey, what other time would I be able to try this?” could be applied to Stefan Gates’s Extraordinary Snackbox and seminar. The contents of this snackbox, sold at £6.95 to bold foodies, included the following:

  • bum sandwich (in other words, a sandwich you sat on)
  • jellyfish, fungus and noodle salad
  • pan-fried lamb’s testicles served on couscous
  • curried mealworms on yoghurt with bee vomit
  • sausages in clapshot wrapped in pure gold & pure silver
  • cochineal bugs with marshmallows and cola bottles
  • seaweed snack
  • Space Dust pack

And a vegetable instrument: carrot bassoon.

I admit I did not purchase a Stefan Gates Extraordinary Snackbox, citing my vegetarianism as the main reason why I did not venture to try out lamb’s testicles. However, my daring friends Ella and James split a pack between the two of them, although the carrot bassoon included in their pack unfortunately did not work, much to all of our dismay.

There were other things to try, though. For example, I was lucky enough to swipe a sample from the last batch of syphon-brewed coffee from the Purfrock Coffee table. I’ve never seen a coffee syphon before, and the photos I have on my Flickr account of the demonstration don’t quite do it justice. If you’d like to know what I’m talking about, have a look on the website of Prufrock Coffee and watch the video on syphon filtered coffee. It’s really cool. In addition, there was a cold coffee drip being brewed that had been percolating drops of water since earlier that morning, and it was still going on, no doubt creating a ridiculously smooth, albeit cold, cup of joe.

Alchemist Dreams were handing out samples of a more intoxicating sort. I was handed a little plastic glass holding a delicious purple liquid from their range of rainbow liqueurs on display. My sample was “Rainbow Violet,” which I was told by the soft-spoken woman handing out the little glasses was flavoured with strawberry, cardamom and butterfly pea flower. It was delicious, and I’ve been staring at the lovely bottles on the Alchemist Dreams order slip ponderously. The bottles of liqueur, at 19% abv, would make an amazing gift for those with steampunk, fantasy, vintage or otherwise twee tendencies, and you can even blend your own flavours on their website.

I must say, though, I do have a critique of the event in not having any sort of pamphlet or event directory for attendees, as some of the displays and tables weren’t well-marked, and it would have been nice to have a list of exhibitors with their websites and contact information. There were lovely cakes, for example, that I took photos of, but I have no idea who was behind their creation.

In addition to the Experimental Food Society Spectacular, I attended the talk at the V&A on the following Tuesday. Although the exhibition was nice, it was also nice to sit down and have some of the people behind the fantastical array of art, sculpture, tastes and visions discuss their work and what drew them to creating what they do. Talks were given by foodscapist Carl Warner, Harry Eastwood of Petit Pois, gastronomic tailor Emily Crane and Michelle Wibowo, the fantastic cake artist who shared with us her dodo cake, of which I have a crappy iPhone video of her cutting.

The dodo was quite buttery, but amazingly nice, and a good way to end the events the Experimental Food Society had that weekend. I look forward to the next Spectacular, as well as other events the Experimental Food Society may be behind.

2 thoughts on “Dream Liqueurs, Bum Sandwiches and Dodo Cake: The Experimental Food Society Spectacular and V&A Talks

  1. Love, love, love, love this! Seemed like so much fun! You’re so lucky to have these kind of events locally and to be able to attend.

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