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Fungal culture – from Borough Market to ancient Egypt

12 August 2019

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

Gourmet news from Borough Market, where the V&A has partnered with a fruit and veg trader to run a pop-up on 14 August selling an oyster mushroom and spelt risotto. The fungi component of said dish will come from the museum itself, which has for some time been harvesting mushrooms grown in plastic bags filled with coffee grounds – some of which come from its on-site Benugo cafe.

Yum. Any fungus lovers in search of further cultural thrills this week need only turn to America, where the inventor of the Xbox has enlisted the help of an Egyptologist and a scientist to help him bake bread. And yes, it’s just as weird as it sounds: video-games whizz Seamus Blackley is a keen sourdough enthusiast who is fascinated by the idea of creating bread as the ancient Egyptians made it, using what he believes to be the very same fungal cultures that they would have baked with.

Blackley teamed up with microbiologist Richard Bowman and Egyptologist Serena Love; and the doughty trio studied artefacts in the collections of the MFA Boston and Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology that would have been used to make beer and bread in ancient Egypt. Dormant yeast samples were then extracted from the objects’ surfaces to be put to work as a sourdough starter. Blackley has now baked his first loaves using the mix. The result? ‘The aroma and flavor are incredible,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘I’m emotional.’

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