On fish, fowl, and fiddleheads

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Raymond Nakamura and Lisa Willemse, Multimedia co-editors

Spring, whenever it arrives for you, is when nature’s multimedia productions begin – and some Science Borealis multimedia bloggers have been giving plenty of thought to the best production of them all: food.

Fern cartoon

Photo by L. Willemse, cartoon by R. Nakamura

When you think about it, food is about as multimedia as science gets. Recipes require particular combinations of wet, dry, spicy, fatty, sweet or savoury elements to yield consumable final products. The ingredients themselves involve myriad processes – the tomato plant that grows in your garden or balcony pot needs minerals, soil to hold water and give it a stable platform, sunlight, and pollinators to produce its colourful, juicy end result.

We two multimedia editors may be virtual neighbours, but physically we live on opposite sides of the country: Raymond in the temperate rainforest on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, and Lisa in the boreal forest of southern Québec. We experience the seasons, and the foods they bring, very differently.

In Québec, spring arrived only very recently, bringing with it tapped maple trees, blackflies, and fiddleheads unfurling from beneath last year’s exhausted fronds. All have links to foods we consume. Even the blackflies, which tend to snack on us most of the time, are also responsible for the bounty of wild blueberries in early August. In southern BC, the northernmost cacti of our continent, the prickly pear, began re-plumping from its winter dormant state, as documented in photographs on the Astro Porifera blog. You can’t really eat the prickly pear, despite its name, but it grows in the wine regions of the Okanagan (as well as in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and what is possibly a unique subspecies in the Kaladar region of Ontario), so it gets an honourable mention on our food multimedia list. Spring is old news in Vancouver, but Curiosity Collider (a new group led by fellow SciBorean Theresa Liao about sparking curiosity for science through interdisciplinary collaborations) sprang up with an inaugural event, Creating Curiosity, which showcased interactions between art and science, including the delicious molecular gastronomy of chocolatiers.

Food reminds us of our biological roots, even if sometimes this has unsavoury implications, as Laura Ulrich discusses in her Monsters and Molecules post about houseflies. We were particularly struck by the plethora (cornucopia?) of food multimedia that appears on Bethann G. Merkle’s CommNatural blog. A recent post profiled a piece she published about eating meat that features some beautifully composed shots of free range animals in Saskatchewan and Québec. Digging deeper into her blog reveals a gorgeous collection of drawings in her “Drawn to Québec” series, which includes food-related entries such as fish, summer berries, and bees. If exotic fare is more your style, take a gander at the Ibycter blog, where Sean McCann uses text, photos, and video to document his scientific and personal excursions. On a recent trip to Guyana, he chronicles the number of animals and birds that rely on the abundant fish within Amazonian rivers – including the peacock bass they cook for dinner, and the fearsome vampire fish whose spoils are shared with a scavenging caracara.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this amuse-bouche for thought. Maybe we should ask for recipes in the next Science Borealis newsletter (have you signed up yet?).

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