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Posts Tagged ‘mad scientists at work’


On a saturday night, the PhD students of plant sciences, bioinformatics and medical sciences gathered in an apartment at Poststrasse and played mixology, aka, cocktail mixing.

I had very little knowledge about cocktails, and even much more limited idea on mixing.  But the scientist in me knew this is gonna be a fun little experiment.  So before I went to the cocktail party with a bottle of tequila, I googled a bit on the topic.  I was surprised.  There is in fact a term molecular mixology (!).  Mr. Wiki defined it as:

Molecular mixology is the term applied to the process of creating cocktails using the scientific equipment and techniques of molecular gastronomy.

These methods enable the creation of greater intensities and varieties of flavour, flavour combinations and different ways of presenting drinks, for example using gels, powders, foams, atomised sprays etc., as well as affecting the appearance of the cocktail.

Isn’t it cool?!  I am, BTW, eversince I can remember, have always been intrigued and interested in food science.

Going back to the party… Since we are so fond of experimenting and we just can’t get enough of it, we experimented on some ingredients and tried our hands and taste buds on them.  With some alcoholic drinks, fruit juices, syrups, sugar powder, and ice cubes in hand, equipped with the usual kitchen stuff like knife, cutting board, glasses and shaker, and geared with the most important experimental protocol recipe, we had fun cutting, mixing, and tasting.

The recipe.

We started with a simple drink Mojito – In a glass, gather some fresh mint leaves and tear them down (or crush it a little), add some brown sugar, throw in 3-4 ice cubes, pour some Sprite until half glass full, and add a punch of rum.  Ahhhh!  Refreshing and so easy to make!

After our first drink, we next prepared the colorful drink Tequila sunrise – Add a couple of milliliters of Tequila, pour in cold orange juice until half full, slowly pour in about 20 ml of grenadine syrup, and watch as the rich red color of the syrup slowly diffuse into a gradient with the orange  juice to create a layer of  “sunrise” colors.  Beautiful (!).

The next is a fairly strong Alibi – In a shaker, add 10 ml grenadine syrup, 10 ml cream, 80 ml vodka, and 30 ml amaretto. Throw in some  crushed ice and give it a hard shake.  Pour into a fresh glass and enjoy every sip.

What I really liked about this drink is the after taste.  On my first sip, I was a bit frightened by the very strong kick of vodka. But right after the vodka, my mouth is tickled with the pleasant taste of amaretto, the sweet syrup, and the richness of the cream.

This next drink was popular to the girls of the group. I call it the Pitu lemon –  Cut a fresh green lemon into cubes and throw it in a glass.  Crush the lemon until its juices came out, add a spoonful of brown sugar, throw in a handful of crushed ice, and add about 10 to 20 ml of Pitu.  Mix thoroughly and enjoy a refreshing drink perfect for a warm summer night along the beach.  Only, we are in a kitchen in a cold gray night.  But it was not that bad.  And we had fun!

This last mix was my favorite.  I call it Vipul’s concoction – In a shaker, pour in Pitu, grenadine syrup, and cream (sahne) in 1:1:1 by volume, throw in lots of crushed ice, and give it a really hard shake.  Pour it in a glass and get creative with some cocktail decorations.  Here we used a slice of green melon secured on one side of the glass and on it stacked an umbrella and a toothpick carrying a fruit tomato.  You can also throw in some cranberries which are perfect to complement this creamy drink.

Cocktails are great for entertaining.  We had so much fun mixing and drinking.  Just perfect for a rather cold and boring weekend. Cocktail parties will definitely be in my schedule the next time I entertain.  And oh! I can’t wait to try this with my best friend!  Only, we are in the opposite sides on the world 😦

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I love doing experiments.

I need to do experiments.

I enjoy working in the lab.

This, I know, is what I am born to do.

As much as I love experimenting in the lab, I too, love experimenting in the kitchen.  I somehow associate experimenting with cooking.  And these words are interchangeable in my dictionary. 🙂

AT WORK:  The lab is my kitchen and my samples are my recipe.  My results are the products of my hard work- they are the food I have created.  But I also understand that doing science is not just about the fun part- cooking.  It is actually about serving your meals to the people a.k.a. your costumers.  It is about the purpose- the costumer´s satisfaction and their nourishment.  It´s purpose is to nourish- to promote growth, to better knowledge and deepen understanding, to foster the development of research and technology for the betterment of humanity.  Science involves writing and making it known to the public.  It is about publishing.  “Publish or perish” right?  And so, the pressure is up, but the projects are most often than not frustrating.  This cooking career requires skills, patience, lots of troubleshooting, and tons of faith and prayer. But I enjoy it anyhow…

AT THE KITCHEN:  I experiment on new recipes. I search for ingredients and I get a bit creative and flexible with it.  I look for alternatives, and this is the fun part of it. It takes courage and experience to create new things, and this is what it takes to create new recipes.  And resourcefulness wouldn´t hurt either.  And this is what I just did.  I used my resourcefulness 🙂

I picked some fresh sour cherries at my institute´s garden, washed them thoroughly and patiently pitted them one by one. I then transferred the pitted cherries in a cooking vessel on a low heat. I added a handful of white sugar and I brought it into a boil.  I set aside some of the juice extracts from the marmalade and then I poured a half bottle of red wine into the pot.  I continuously heat it up until the alcohol from the wine was reduced.  This is to concentrate all the rich flavors from the sour cherry, the sugar, and the wine.  I came to a product I call cherry wine marmalade.

Oh my, I love the taste!  It is perfect for my early morning (plain) yoghurt (I also tried it with freshly cut banana, and it´s wonderful!), or top it on a vanilla ice cream.

I also turned the juice extract from the marmalade into a wonderful cherry cocktail.  I filtered the extract it into a bottle, added some sugar for added sweetness, or vodka, for a kick.  I gathered some ice cubes and put it in, gave a hard shake  and  wahhhlahhhh!!!! My refreshing cherry drink.

I served these to my friends when I hosted a dinner one Saturday night in my apartment and they loved it.  It just complemented the pineapple chicken and buttered veggies I served for the main course. We did enjoy the ice cream topped with cherry marmalade and the cherry cocktail while we sang our hearts out in youtube karaoke and laugh our night through it.

That´s the thing with experimenting in the kitchen over cooking in the lab – I always get good results, a smile on my face and a happy stomach.

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If you are to survive in this scientific community, you must learn how to do humor… And see humor in every situation and conversation possible.

This email sent to everyone in our institute just gave me a pleasing smile.  What a wit, isn’t it?

Hello there. If accidentally you ran over a couple of toads and smashed them in the floor on the latest days you may be missing your glasses. I found them! Please pick them up at B’s office. Do it for the toads.

-A.

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Stop complaining and shut your mouth up!

It was a long full day in the lab packed with experiments, lab meeting, and junkfood from the Rosenmontag celebration yesterday. By early afternoon I was already tired, and feeling hungry even just an hour past lunch time. While setting up my western blot, I complained as I always do.

 

“I´m hungry.”

“I´m tired.”

“I´m sleepy.”

 

T. heard me and said “Those are the words of a woman in her late pregnancy period with her big protruding belly.”

 

I kept my mouth shut the rest of the day.

 

 

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Two cats (or bosses) and five rats (labrats or “rats” who work in a lab) went to Winterberg on a Wednesday morning, on official business, using the institute’s car (shhhh!) for skiing. Fun in the snowy mountain filled with evergreen trees with their everblooming ever green green leaves decorated beautifully with fresh snow like a powdered sugar atop a chocolaty cupcake.  (They looked fantastic!) It was a gloomy freezing (!) day. Nevertheless, the ski resort was filled with people, mostly Dutch from the neighbouring The Netherlands, as evident of their yellow plated cars, as opposed to the white plated ones of Germany.  The two female rat ski rookies were lucky enough to be tutored on Skiing 101 by Cat #1.  And there we went trying our way for skiing.  Skiing is hard work!  A very hard work.  Much harder than being in the lab playing labrats. Even harder than doing an experiment.

That’s what I thought. At least in the first hour or two. Of trying to learn which is horizontal versus vertical.  Which is downhill, and which is uphill. Learning to bend forward and not leaning backward, where the former means you go faster (which is scary! and even made scarier by the fact that I may hurt people who BTW is not covered by the shitty health and accident insurance policy in Germany.  Are people hearing me? Do something about this please!), while the latter means you stumble down with your battered butt into the cold snow which, BTW melts in your ass and gets your battered butt wet (!).  Well, as I’ve said, that is what I thought – hard work.

After an exhausting hour or two, the two rookies gave their battered butt a break and decided to stock up energy for later.  Nibbled on some comfort foods, high energy of sort, Currywurst mit pommes (Sausage with potato fries) and heiße Schokolade trinken (hot chocolate drink).  After getting full, we set our minds and mentally run the “Skiing-is-fun program”. We bought our lift passes, went up the hill and tried skiing down.  This we did for the next 3 hours or so. After indefinite number of falls (which I hate because it is very hard to get up as your legs and feet have very limited movement, and I am too embarrassed to be picked up by the boss, I mean Cat #1, every time I fall), I started enjoying the “play” as I learn to balance, ski down, go faster, snow plow, turning left and right to create beautiful curves, slowdown and to break.  Oh boy, I was loving the slopes! It was so much fun!  The cats and the rats were all very tired and happy by the end of the day. The two rookies, especially, have battered, aching, exhausted, at-the-verge-of-hypothermia bodies, but a refreshed mind. Our bodies ached for at least 2 days, but it was all worth it.  Who gets to have a hard core scientist as a ski trainor anyway? Not so many I guess.

Ski rental, 10 euros

Lift Pass, 16 euros

Currywurst mit pommes and heiße Schokolade trinken, 10 euros

Smiles on our faces, fun bonding time together, refreshed mind, PRICELESS.


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