Today the stylist.co.uk team is putting its eating skills to the test in heroic fashion by taking part in the Guinness World Record attempt on the world's longest tasting menu.
We'll be joining a group of elite eaters in London's Soho as they make their way through 193 courses from around the world in 24 hours.
We don't yet know what we'll be eating (delicacies on offer include durian fruit, sea urchin caviar and fried giant crickets) but we'll be live blogging all the gory details from 2-6pm today, before leaving the diners to it as they take on the night shift.
Stay tuned on this page as we chomp our way through an average of eight courses an hour and bring you all the latest photos, recipes and inside tips from our fellow Guinness World Record challengers. Bring it on!
Sejal Kapadia says…
As I type this - the morning after my session - those brave eaters are making their way through their 112th meal. They've been up for 25 hours. When I arrived in their ninth hour for Stylist's last lap of the challenge, they had already reached the point of 'full' two hours ago. I wonder how they look now. Someone sprawled out across the wooden dining table, another being prodded with Sweet Fried Bread from the United Republic of Tanzania. The truth is, I bet they all look great and full of upbeat, somewhat delusional jokes. I think we'd all want to join them right now.
I became a part of the feast just after the durian fruit and received lots of apologies about the smell as I walked in. Call me crazy, but I wish I could smell it. I've always had the worst sense of smell and it's during global feasts like this that you want to be able to experience as much as you can. Saying that, in came Fried Giant Scorpions from Lesotho. The instructions say "remove the stinger and eat whole like nuts or olives". They make it sound so easy. In fact, the one lesson we've learned from this experience is that all insects and reptiles taste like crispy pork.
Moving onto Germany, I was quite pleased to see actual pork. Frankfurters and sauerkraut is a hearty meal and I think it would be awesome for Sunday lunch with mashed potatoes.
That was followed by pickled herring in a red sauce from Denmark.
And then came the best bit. You see, desserts are my one true food love and the Baklava from Turkey and Pachlava from Tajikistan were sweet parcels of relief. To top that off we had a chunk of the finest chocolate from Switzerland, which tasted like the most genuine dose of cocoa I will ever have.
My hour ended with hot mint tea from Mauritania in West Africa. I could have carried on munching but I turned to my fellow diners and they had hit that invisible wall you see on Christmas Day when you're about to hit a food coma and James Bond comes on. Except they don't have the movie. Just more food.
I quickly asked how they prepped for this marathon. Carrie, the marketing director at Unearthed (the organisers) limited her usual diet three days before by drinking smoothies; William, from the Daily Express, ate a jacket potato at 1pm as his last meal the day before the challenge, and another diner who won the opportunity to join the group drank a beetroot shake the night before.
I imagine she's thankful for it now. Let the eating continue...
Elinor Block says…
Taking over from Anna Fielding, I was merrily informed (thanks Anna!) that I would be trying the dreaded Durian fruit (tastes like toffee, smells like a sewer), during my course tasting.
Luckily the first plate I tried was the rather delicious and not too exotic Irish potato bread. The potato replaces the flour in the bread and it’s a classic dish.
This was washed down with the champagne, which was representative of Monaco (Champagne can only be from Champagne, of course). Because I knew what was coming, I heartily downed the glass. Before we got onto the next courses, I chatted to fellow journalist William Hartson, writing for the Daily Express, also undertaking the challenge and had been in his seat since 9am (phew), who informed me of various facts about the number 193, my favourite being that Eyebrow No.193 is a rural municipality in Saskatchewan, Canada. It contains the village of Eyebrow and has rural municipality number 193. More on the number 193 here.
Two dishes were then sent to the table at the same time – a chicken buryani from Sri Lanka and a pasta and cheese dish from Liechtenstein (the greatest exporter of false teeth, fact fans). Both were equally pleasing and not too much of a stretch on the taste buds, and I even went back for a good second (third and fourth) helping of the cheese dish. Both pictures below.
Chicken Buryani from Sri Lanka
Kasknopfl from Liechtenstein
Moving onto the more adventurous, the Sea Urchin caviar from Trinidad and Tobago was presented to the table, which was very colourful in appearance and tasted very crab-like. This was followed closely by the wonderfully named PuffPuff from Cameroon, which is a deep fried dough ball and is a popular street food.
Sea urchin caviar from Trinidad and Tobago
PuffPuff from Cameroon
Finally, we arrived at the dreaded Durian fruit. I’m not going to mince my words here. It was pretty disgusting. While some of my fellow diners were rather enamoured by the dessert, I, on the other hand was not. I’d describe it as the taste of the smell of a gas leak. As the fruit was frozen, we couldn’t smell it the moment it was placed on the table but then rapidly it began to emanate its rather toxic smell. Needless to say, one small bite was enough for us.
Durian fruit from Malaysia
Thankfully, I had some delectable apple strudel to finish on, which took the taste away and remedy any questionable flavours I had in my mouth. For that, I will be forever grateful to Austria.
Apfelstrudel from Austria
Anna Fielding says...
I am Anna B’s relief woman. I’ll happily eat most things munching along like Pac Man with a global palate. Anna slips out and I take her place with my new dining companions; various members of the Unearthed team, Paddy from the Sunday People and William from The Express. They’ve all been here since nine this morning and they aren’t showing signs of wear, although five minutes after telling them so I find a tie abandoned under the table.
There’s red snapper from Barbados on the table, and lomo saltado, a tangy and fresh sirloin steak stir fry from Peru.
Next up are grits from Canada. I first heard of grits in the Beach Boys version of Sloop John B when I was about nine. My knowledge is much more extensive these days, only now I have the annoying adult tendency to cover up by going “Oh yes, grits… are they made of corn?” It sounds reasonably sophisticated until you find out I picked that up watching Man v. Food.
grits! At 2.07. Grits!
But grits, grits are really nice (and they are made of ground corn, Adam Richman you have served me well). “I think if I’d grown up with them I’d feel about grits the way I do about mashed potato,” I tell the table. My companions have reached the stage of sharing silly facts.
“That’s just not true,” William says with authority. “So many of these popular facts aren’t. It’s not even true that only humans and nine-banded armadillos are the only creatures to get leprosy.”
We sit and digest snapper, lomo saltado, grits and the idea that this is a popular fact.
“The seven-banded armadillo is immune of course,” he continues.
Iced coffee appears, along with Anzac biscuits (New Zealand, although I’d always thought they were Australian – is this one of the dishes they fight over, like Peach Melba?), gorayba an Saudi shortbread, khaja a baklava-like sweet from Bangladesh and a banana pie from Vanuatu. This is the second time in two days I’ve had a conversation about Vanuatu. They have a good flag and they make a good banana pie. Go Vanuatu.
Then Nell arrives and I realise she’s got the durian fruit. The one we’ve all been dreading…
Anna Brech says...
In Janetira restaurant on London's Brewer Street a group of enthusiastic diners are gathered to try the Guinness World Record attempt on the world's longest tasting menu. Their challenge lies in sampling 193 courses from around the world in 24 hours, from 9am on Thursday to 9am on Friday.
The crew consists of Carrie and Simon from Unearthed, the intrepid food brand behind the project, plus a handful of stalwart volunteers who will see it through the night with them. Hundreds of people have contributed to this initiative from all over the world. Unearthed are partnered with Action Against Hunger (1pm from every Unearthed product sold is donated to the charity) and many of the recipes featured come from AAH's host countries, along with food bloggers, chefs and Tweeters who've taken an interest in the project.
The diners gather...
Down in the kitchen, a group of chefs run by an ex-military restaurateur have been working since Monday to execute the 193 courses on time and in keeping with global standards. Their kitchen is littered with unusual delicacies such as scorpion's tail, sea urchin caviar and Turkish rose cordial.
The mood upstairs is upbeat and cheery, like an informal (and never-ending) dinner party. So far, everyone seems agreed that the grasshoppers eaten whole from Congo were pretty good - a bit like pork scratchings, apparently - but the toasted seasoned weaver ants from Zambia were harder to swallow. "They had a wafer-type consistency but the wings got in the way a bit," remarked one diner.
Anyone for grasshoppers?
The challengers are feeling full but focused when I catch up with them; despite eating since 9am (in bite-sized portions), there are no food comas in evidence. Yet.
They aren't sure how they'll make it through the night but expect to be entertained by revellers on the streets of Soho, as well as regular breaks and perhaps a cheeky power nap if they can squeeze it in between courses.
Here's what I tried during my hour with the group, who are aiming to broaden Britain's taste buds with the record attempt:
Gnocchi from Uruguay came soft and creamy - a delicious bite-size dish...
Next up were these picturesque Tteok; Korean rice cakes, made with glutinous rice flour served with a red spicy sweet course. They were pretty tough in consistency but lovely to look at.
Green Harissa dip from Armenia (one of Unearthed's own products) made a nice little side dish.
The dip was actually perfect for dipping these moreish Briks, traditional stuffed pastries from Tunisia, in:
The chefs downstairs were doing a stellar job of keeping on top of it all. They had prepared the bigger, curry-based dishes in advance but it was the first time they'd ever tried prepping treats like scorpion's tail and grasshoppers. They said they might rely on Red Bull later on, to keep them going through the night...
Below: The intrepid stylist.co.uk team get set to eat (clockwise from left): editor Anna Fielding, writers Anna Brech and Elinor Block, digital assistant Sejal Kapadia