The New York State Museum
will celebrate Charles Darwins 200th birthday this February with an innovative evolution series -- Cooking the Tree of Life that includes a recipe contest and cooking demonstrations.
Each demonstration in the weekly series will pair a local chef with a biologist, and the two will prepare a meal, providing both the culinary and scientific perspective. Each menu will focus on a different branch of the Tree of Life vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and fungi. The free programs will be held each Wednesday, beginning Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Clark Auditorium. On Feb. 11, there will be a cake served in honor of the 200th anniversary of Darwins birthday.
The Museum also is sponsoring a Cooking the Tree of Life Recipe Contest, with submissions due February 2. Contestants are invited to submit a recipe focusing on the ingredients from one of the branches of the tree of life -- vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and fungi. Recipes should include a description of why the dish is biologically interesting. For example, the ingredients might be good examples of artificial selection, illustrate a great amount of biodiversity, or highlight some adaptation that allows a particular species to survive and thrive (e.g. why some animals have white meat vs. dark meat).
The top submission will be featured in a live cooking demonstration at the State Museum in February. Also, the winner will be filmed preparing a featured dish at the U.S. Foodservice test kitchen. This video will be viewable through the State Museum website after the event. Submissions should be sent to email@example.com by February 2.
The February demonstrations are:
February 4, vertebrates: Chef Tony Destratis of Lake George Club will use a combination of familiar and unfamiliar vertebrates to prepare a meal using meat. Dr. Roland Kays, the Museums curator of mammals, will assist.
February 11, invertebrates: Chef David Britton from Saratogas Springwater Bistro will try to set a world record for the most diverse meal ever prepared since invertebrates are the most varied group of life on earth. Dr. Jason Cryan, a Museum entomologist, will help steer the menu away from the creepy-crawlies eaten on extreme reality shows and toward the more appetizing branches of this part of the Tree of Life (think lobster).
February 18, plants: Chef Timothy Warnock, corporate chef for U.S. Foodservice, will use ingredients from across the botanical Tree of Life to try to create the most biodiverse meal anyone has seen. Dr. George Robinson, professor at the University of Albany, will guide the audience through the 500 million years of plant life.
February 25, yeast and fungi: Chef Paul Parker from Chez Sophie plans to create one of the most unusual meals of this series, promising a variety of tastes to match the diversity of life represented in this category, which ranges from wine, to bread, to mushrooms, to corn smut. Cornell Universitys Dr. George Hulder, author of the book Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds, will offer the evolutionary color commentary as he helps chop and stir the meal.