On Wednesday I went to a lecture at the Royal Institution by Heston Blumenthal. I probably wouldn’t have gone except I took my wife who is a food technology teacher, although I did have a vague interest to hear him & see how he came over as a speaker. The lectures last an hour, with a half hour after for questions. Unfortunately Heston’s hour consisted of playing a recording of one of his TV programmes (the Christmas one), pausing it & commenting on it. I hadn’t seen he programme before, but even so found the whole thing a bit of a disappointment, and something of a cop-out by Blumenthal; although it was a novelty to taste frankincense I could have done with a lot more talking (his presentation lacked polish & rehearsal, too). My wife saw his main development chef talk at
Far better than this was the RI lecture I went to on Monday, Feast: why humans share food by Martin Jones. Admittedly the speaker, Martin Jones, is the first George Pitt-Rivers Professor of Archaeological Science at the
The subject was why humans, unlike other mammals, use meal times as a social activity, and used various disciplines within arachaeology (including palaeoanthropology, archaeobotany, archaeogenetics, & the archaeology of food) to provide some answers and a lot more questions. He explained how, at Boxgrove, the flint scatters from knapping can be plotted in three dimensions to the extent that it can be determined where the knappers sat, how their legs were arranged and at what point they got up to stretch their legs & sat down again. The subject was brought right up to date, and was followed by an extremely interesting Q&A session - the audience for this lecture asked much more intelligent questions than at Blumenthal’s (“why can’t I get a table at the Fat Duck?” was an example there).
At last we get round to the book connection: following the talk I bought Jones’ book, also called ‘Feast: why humans share food’ (Oxford University Press); although I’ve only had time to get about a third the way through, I’m enjoying it very much too, as much as the lecture but in a different way. I find when I read a book by someone I have heard speaking I hear their voice in the text – people usually seem to write in the style in which they speak. And I’ve also bought his earlier book ‘The Molecule Hunt: Archaeology and the Hunt for Ancient DNA’ (Penguin), which I have put aside for later in the year.