This is the first of a series of posts about my recent visit to the University of Bergen, the finale to my role in the examination process of a fascinating doctoral thesis. This first post reviews the archaeo-nosh.
For context, I’ve previously expounded on the importance of large-scale and varied consumption when examining doctoral theses: my viva-day-diet! But Norway is a different country and their examination procedures are very different to those in the UK, including a trial lecture the evening before and a morning-long public disputation between the candidate and two external examiners. Hence, the dietary regulations I have previously outlined for UK doctoral examinations required serious revising and extending to cover the 4 days of the event: two days of travel between North Wales and Norway involving a bicycle, 6 trains, 4 planes, a tram and a bus, and two days (3 nights) of staying in the beautiful city of Bergen involving a multi-staged doctoring examination and some sightseeing. My point: heed my advice herein if you ever examine a doctoral thesis in Norway: to consume less could be perilous!
First up, it’s important to consume all the food offered on the planes. As outlined previously here and here, KLM fly from Manchester to Bergen via Amsterdam Schipol and offer heritage-flavoured food, including packaging with distinctive Amsterdam waterfront buildings, tulips, windmills, bicycles, clogs, and kissing-in-traditional-Dutch-costume-wearing-clogs motifs. All this is part of the in-flight heritage consumption, afforded extra historical affirmation provided by a ‘since 1919’ statement on the cup and a green or red wax seal with a cake as the emblem.
Add to this, I cannot stress enough the necessity of fast-food meals and hefty baguettes at the airport. The trip is quite gruelling in itself but who knows what would happen if you didn’t take advantage of the food outlets!? An Amsterdam Schipol McDonald’s, for example, is a truly international experience, with apple juice, mayo and onions in the burger you can actually taste!
When I got to Bergen, I found another burger meal to see me through to the next morning. McDonald’s again seemed as good a place as any (chicken this time for variety), and the harbour branch is blended deftly into the historic setting, befitting a chain operating in close proximity to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So again, the consumption was justified as a form of academic research.
I wasn’t naive and foolish enough to pass up on the opportunity of a hearty breakfast at the hotel the next morning (as below) to fuel me for the challenge of exploring the Bryggen Museum and Hakon Hall. Again, essential heritage calories were required. Note: the build-up of food meant that, for some reason I decided to skip lunch: I know that over-indulgence is not justified, even by doctoral examinations!
I then prepared my notes for the examination before going to attend the candidate’s Trial Lecture. After the Trial Lecture, myself and the two other examiners went out for dinner: part of the courteous and hospitable treatment offered to us by the University of Bergen. Here, there was no choice and no escape, I was as good as forced to eat, and it seemed rude not to go for three courses. I opted for cured reindeer for start (sorry Sven!), steak and mash for the main course, and blueberry crumble for desert.
Next morning, I was obviously starving since I was within the examination processes of two key stages, the Trial Lecture and the Disputation. There was the second hotel breakfast which was extraordinarily bountiful against my will. As with the first morning, it would have been quite rude if someone noticed I hadn’t tried at least two sittings of grub!
The examination next day involved multiple hours of detailed academic debate about early medieval monuments. Afterwards, we walked into central Bergen from the University and the newly doctored candidate – Dr Iris Crouwers – joined the examination team and her supervisor for a slap-up lunch, again at the University’s expense. The Head of Department gave a short speech, but the main thing was the food: this time a wonderful cod dish.
The afternoon gave me some free time so I did some walking and sightseeing. But then I was invited to an evening meal with the family and friends of Dr Crouwers, and again, with the other examiners I tucked in to doctoral-examination fayre. This time savoury pancakes, and once more the food was fully integral to the examination process and therefore gastro-archaeology.
Thankfully, with that gorge-fest concluded, the living hell that was my trip to the University of Bergen was nearly over. The next morning it was back to airport baguettes and KLM heritage snacks on the journey home to Blighty!