As Block One draws to its inevitable conclusion, I find myself thinking back on the experience in a fond yet bittersweet way. It seems so odd to think that only just a few weeks ago I had met everyone in this house for the first time, and that now in just a week, I’ll be leaving for a new residence and a mostly new group of housemates. It’s been a whirlwind of busy days and fascinating lessons, field trips and cooking demonstrations, food prep and fermenting, all with the same friendly faces each morning from Monday through Thursday. From the incredibly complex communities of microbes in wild fermented foods to the incredible complex communities of the human experience, we discovered through creating, tasting, and plenty of cleaning, that everything is interconnected. In many ways, I wish I could continue this. There is so much to learn and to explore in preserving and fermenting food, and even more to discuss and solve in food action within our communities both here and in our home towns.
From the incredibly complex communities of microbes in wild fermented foods to the incredible complex communities of the human experience, we discovered through creating, tasting, and plenty of cleaning, that everything is interconnected.
From the first official day of class, we dove straight into the realm of fermentation as we learned how to make sauerkraut and went on to then make our own. Much like every person in the class, each sauerkraut was unique – no single one was the same, but each one turned out to be fantastic.
After that we discovered Kombucha and sourdough, working on brewing our own Kombucha from green tea, a mix of green and black tea, turkey tail mushrooms, chaga mushrooms, and a blend of green tea and plenty of honey, as well as beginning the journey of keeping our own sourdough starters – my own of which, lovingly named Jimothy the 30th, has been quite a big inspiration for me.
The weeks following brought lessons of water bath canning, kimchi, lacto-fermented pickling, fresh mozzarella, and, in my case, homemade goat cheese. Then came Community Food Action as we dug into using local resources to feed those who cannot afford to feed themselves or to teach people how to feed themselves in a nutritionally complete way. Discussions of the dangers of a colonizer’s approach to global food action and of the failures within our government to ensure that all our people are fed and fed well were abound, striking both a desire to act and an appreciation for just how much this community in and of itself is doing to look out for each of its members.
The lessons learned here I am sure will carry with each of us throughout our lives, some of us no doubt inspired to instill change within our hometowns, others of us finding a passion for fermentation and food preservation. And yet… it is time to take on another focus, for now. My reluctance to leave this pod for the next, though, has been quelled by – of all things – my sourdough starter. A sourdough starter cannot grow or survive without a substantial amount of discard and a steady influx of new material. Much in the same way, if I stayed in this pod forever, my growth as a student and as a person would be limited – to a point where perhaps I may turn a bit too sour, more akin to vinegar than to a rich symbiotic community of experiences and relationships. Each of us is, in some way, a discard. We are taken from this pod, this main starter, and we are put into a new pod (a new jar, if you will), fed with the flour and water that is new classes and new faces. From that, we all have a new chance to grow until the next discard comes and a new feeding begins.
Perhaps, in the end, after we have grown and matured enough from all of this, we can go from this place, meet new people, have new experiences, and be turned into a beautiful loaf of bread – metaphorically, of course – each of us with a flavor all our own that tells the stories of the days we spent here in each of our pods, in each of our classes, and in each of the new bonds we made.