Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search

 

Does a frog’s leg taste like chicken?


The Unburnt Egg

Does a frog’s leg taste like chicken?
20 June 2016

Does a frog’s leg taste like chicken? Perhaps an Auckland grocery store thought so when it put on sale the legs and abdomens of large frogs, packaged in polystyrene trays and covered with clear plastic, as ‘chicken thighs’. Or maybe it just hoped no one would notice. It had not counted on the detective skills of Brian Gill, curator of land vertebrates at Auckland Museum.

Asked by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research to examine samples of the ‘chicken thighs’, Gill immediately noticed that the lower part of the legs were very slender. He knew chickens’ leg bones were thicker. Result: the store and its suppliers of frog meat were prosecuted and received a hefty fine for ‘recklessly selling unauthorised goods’.

The fascinating story is told by Gill in his new book The Unburnt Egg, to be released by Awa Press on July 22 – a sequel to his critically acclaimed 2012 book The Owl that Fell from the Sky.

‘People would be surprised how often museums get called on to identify mysterious objects,’ Gill says.

Among countless items he identified during his more than thirty years at the museum were a dead ‘snake’ (in reality an Australian legless lizard), a feather in a bag of sugar (it had come from a myna, but whether it had got into the sugar in Fiji or New Zealand was impossible to tell), a gecko in a can of New Zealand beer (Gill proved it had entered the beer in Singapore after the can was opened), and an ostrich egg decorated with scrimshaw and up for auction (a clever plastic fake).

This is the lighter side of a curator’s work, much of which involves lengthy and painstaking research, extensive travel, and engagement with other research institutions around the world.

Gill weaves gently engaging stories of history, science and personalities. In the title piece he explores the strange journey of a rare and priceless moa’s egg in the Auckland Museum collection, and the eccentric, reclusive woman who once owned it. In others we are introduced to the spectacular migrations of New Zealand cuckoos, theories on why the huia and moa became extinct, the quest to identify Pacific island geckos and skinks, and the cautionary tale of how a small group of rats decimated the bird population of a New Zealand island, and its lessons for human survival – and much else.

A major theme of the book is the growing importance of natural history museums, whose meticulous researchers and scientific samples play a critical role in the national effort to protect biodiversity, tackle environmental challenges and promote sustainability, as well as informing public debate on issues crucial to our common future.

But at a simpler level, as Gill’s stories show, the museums also inspire interest and wonder about the natural world.

‘Brian Gill brings a ‘dusty’ museum, its scientists and its creatures to life as never before’
– Joel Cracraft, Division Chair and Lamont Curator, Department of Ornithology, Division of Vertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History, New York

The Unburnt Egg: More stories of a museum curator by Brian Gill
Published with the assistance of the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Release date: July 22, 2016
RRP: $38

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 


Howard Davis: NZSQ Conclude National Tour With ‘Release’ Programme

The NZSQ concluded their national tour in Wellington with a three-part programme, the triumphant final installment of which was entitled ‘Release.’ It included three pieces representing radical musical innovation... More>>

Howard Davis: The Show Must Go On - ‘La Traviata’ Opening Night Wobbles
Casting problems have beset ‘La Traviata’ since its first performance in March 1853 at Venice’s La Fenice opera house. Sadly, Saturday night’s premiere at Wellington’s newly-restored St James Theatre proved no different... More>>



Howard Davis: Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune - A Brief History

So many elements of Herbert’s novel have since become tropes of popular SciFi that Villeneuve’s film sometimes seems deceptively derivative. What makes all this nonsense essential viewing is his astonishing visual sensibility. More>>


Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which has been republished by Te Papa press. More>>

 
 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • CULTURE
  • HEALTH
  • EDUCATION
 
 
  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland