Thursday, June 10, 2010

Science is delicious

I think it's an important aspect of those doing research in the biological sciences to eat their study group. Take the inspired, wholly accurate Onion article for example: New, Delicious Species Discovered. Granted, this is easier and and more palatable for some scientists than others. And to the others, I say: suck it up, princesses. Organismal biologists have it pretty easy - every study has it's causalities than would likely be delicious on the grill, sauteed, or with a white wine sauce. For those studying viruses, would they not work harder to find cures and treatments if they were to ingest the samples in their petri dishes? And do those studying human anatomy and physiology really not get curious? I mean, I'm not going to rush off to join the Korowai tribe or hope for a plane crash in the Andes, but I'm honest enough to admit that I'm curious.

Now, many would say I have it easy since I study birds, but it's not a smooth sailing as one would think. Yeah, duck and geese are easy to get and are best served with a cranberry or orange sauce and paired with a mellow red wine. I prefer a pino noir or chianti. However, my other study groups are not so easy to get my hands on - penguins and auks. Unfortunately, all the specimens I have in my possession arrived fleshless. Well, not that unfortunate since I don't really do flesh - thank goodness for dermestid beetles. And due to the Antarctic Treaty and Antarctic Conservation Act, there's no chance of penguins showing up in markets and restaurants in the U.S. anytime soon. Bastards. There are re
ports of penguin-eating before they became contraband. One source describes penguin meat as "If it's possible to imagine a piece of beef, odiferous cod fish and a canvas-backed duck roasted together in a pot, with blood and cod-liver oil for sauce, the illustration would be complete". Nothing a little BBQ sauce wouldn't take care of. I've also read that penguin tastes rather like seal. I've had seal, which makes me think that perhaps I shouldn't be so eager to taste penguin after all. But I wonder if their eggs taste fishy, too....

I don't know if there's any legislature against eating auks (puffins, murres/guillemots, auklets, ect.), but I'm guessing not based on the results from googling "eating puffins" and "what do puffins taste like". When I was in the Arctic in 2007, there weren't any in the area to sample, or buy off the Inuits, and I've never been to other places within their habitat. I wonder if they ship them from Maine like lobsters... I wonder if this could be a business opportunity for me... But, to help appease my curiosity until fleshy specimens become available, I can rely on a delight I discovered (or possibly re-discovered) on a camping trip last week: Puffins cereal. And let me just say, peanut butter flavored Puffins...omg, I'm addicted. I was not above shamelessly high-grading the food from the 7th graders we were leading on the trip in the name of making sure I got the Puffins. They are one of my study animals after all.

And my final study group are fossil birds. These are a lot harder to find a suitable way to consume. After spending years cleaning off microvertebrate fossils in the field by putting them in my mouth to remove the dirt, I find that I'm not too interested in eating fossils in the traditional manner. There are always rumors of explorers, scientists, and commoners eating frozen mammoths, leading to various gastrointestinal catastrophes, but the truth behind these wives' tails are unsubstantiated. However, I spend a remarkable amount of time thinking about all the studies on delicious and exotic animals out there, as well as considering what my fossil birds tasted like. In fact, I have a conference talk already prepared discussing which wines to pair with my fossil birds. I've provided a little teaser. The reports of soft tissue being found in fossils gives me hope, though. Perhaps if I boil them long enough...

But in reality, this is pretty much just a long ad for Puffins cereal. The cereal of ornithologists.