When I went along to Punk Science at the Science Museum’s adults-only Dana Centre this past Wednesday evening, I not expecting to end up on the stage eating a tarantula. Of course, this is precisely what happened. I’ll get to exactly why in just a moment!
Punk Science are Jon and Dan, the Dana Centre’s resident comedy duo. They propose a “pub-level” understanding of science – explaining stuff to your mates with a drink, in other words. In the past they’ve tackled Einstein, climate change and happiness, but this week it was the turn of food in their new show Eat It.
The evening’s entertainment began, not unreasonably, with an introduction. Jon wandered down the aisle shouting “Hello! Hello! Hello!” to every individual in the audience, leaving me both amused but also slightly intimidated – a fairly accurate description of my state of mind throughout the show!
The Punk Scientists are big on audience participation, and as such use a voting system to gauge people’s opinions. It works like this: option A (The Jon) is a double thumbs up with a slightly insane grin, whilst option B (The Dan) is playing air guitar. Last but not lost, option C is The Religious Zealot, a manic waving of your hands in the air. Voting is accompanied by Dan’s slap bass soundtrack, as Jon attempts a headcount.
We were quizzed on a variety of topics, such as what we most look for in our food, and whether food miles were a factor in our shopping. It was this last one that got me in to spider-eating trouble. Sitting in a row with my fellow SciCommers, we all plumbed for option C – something like “I don’t really look at food miles”. What can I say? We’re students, cheap, and proud.
This got us dubbed the “evil row”, and moments later the duo were looking for a volunteer to come up on stage and eat some locally produced food. They decided to pick on us, and of course I was the one foolish sitting in the aisle seat. Walking up on to the stage, I wondered what they were going to offer me.
It started out ok, with an apple from Kent and shortbread from Scotland, but I could sense a punchline was inevitable. A beer was ordered from the bar, so I could wash my mystery food down. I found my self staring in to a bowl of giant ants.
Whilst one half of my brain was trying to make me run off stage, out of the Dana Centre, and away from South Kensington forever, the other half attempted swift rationalisation. “You like prawns, don’t you?” I thought. I ate it. It tasted a bit like a pretzel.
Next up, thai green curry crickets. I had actually seen these before – a friend had bought and eaten them, much to my disgust. It seems that now it was my turn. Figuring it couldn’t be much worse than the ants, I was actually a little disappointed – the crickets didn’t taste remotely like thai green curry.
Finally, Jon informed me they had one more item. “Is it spiders?” I asked. “It might be spiders,” he replied. “I have a bit of a problem with spiders,” I admitted. “Well then,” he said, “it’s time to get revenge.”
A bowl was passed round the audience, and I watched as the looks of disgust swept over their faces. It came back on stage, and of course, it was a tarantula. This is not just any tarantula thought, this is
M&S oven baked tarantula.
I was actually quite nervous at this point. What was I to do? In the end, I said I’d try a leg. Plucking one off with trepidation, the audience chanted my name as I chewed and swallowed. All I could think was that it felt like I was eating a twig.
With a round of applause, I exited the stage, and another volunteer (who must be crazy) offered to go up on stage and eat the whole spider. Still recovering from my ordeal, I could barely watch.
If my rather gruesome description of bug-eating has put you off attending a Punk Science event, you shouldn’t let it. In spite of my unusual culinary experience, I actually had a really good time. The show was full of stunts like this, including how to drink your own urine (though I suspect it might have been apple juice really) and the old classic of liquid-nitrogen ice cream.
In the end, Punk Science are more stand-up than science, and whilst I may not have learnt anything during the event, you can bet I’ll be looking at food mile labels in the future!