Aaaand we’re back! With the spring semester in full swing, watch this space for more weekly contributions from our student interns writing and talking about what they’re cooking, eating, reading and thinking. Shizue RocheAdachi ‘15 starts us off with some thoughts on winter break snacking and the importance of pickles:
In fifth grade I used to watch Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites obsessively on the Food Network. In between episodes of The Saddle Club and Full House I would sit immobile, mouth slightly agape, as Nigella promised me “sinful” chocolate pots au creme and a lemongrass-infused trifle. My favorite part of the show, though, was always the credits, when Nigella waltzes across the screen in a nightgown, opening the refrigerator door to illuminate the darkened kitchen. She peers about before retrieving a tupperware of leftovers—perhaps some cold chicken and sausages, or a piece of chilled honey bee cake—and devours it, her eyes casually glancing to the audience with a look as if to say, “what? you can’t say you wouldn’t do the same.”
Returning to my parents’ home for December vacation inevitably results in my gorging on the forgotten delicacies hidden in the back of their generously sized refrigerator. Unlike Nigella I do not limit myself to the dark of night, lurking around the refrigerator in the light of day with an unwavering determination. I lunge my spoon shamelessly into the last jar of marma-butter (my mother’s concentrated version of marmalade) and crumble the last bit of precious furikake (a Japanese rice sprinkle) sent from Tokyo onto last night’s cold rice. The true gems of the refrigerator, however, lie in the back left corner of the top shelf. Precariously stacked I find the carefully hidden treasures gleaned from my two-month apprenticeship at the Cultured Pickle Shop
I discovered Cultured at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market, and was instantly seduced by their French breakfast radishes pickled in coriander brine. Overwhelmed by all that pickling magic they seem to cultivate so freely, I signed up to stage at the store, which also acts as the production facility for their raw, fermented goods.
My time at Cultured was spent scrubbing purple carrots, quartering and coring an endless supply of cabbages, mixing giant bins of sauerkraut, and packing jar upon jar of beautiful, seasonal, fermented delicacies. The vegetable to finished product process is a long one when natural fermentation is at play and so as weeks passed and I watched the stainless steel vats bubble up with candy-corn orange and even cobalt blue brine, I came to appreciate what it meant to savor a good jar of Super Sauerkraut Salad. With time, unassuming vegetables witness a transformation of epic proportions—flavors integrate and mellow and the vegetables wilt, or rather settle, so that they yield to the teeth without resigning themselves to mush.
Returning home I find my pickles just as I left them. Emerging from the fridge with arms laden with fermented goods—burdock pickled in miso, Kitchari Kraut, and recently-gifted pumpkin pickled with espellete and scallion—I am sure my ten-year-old self would beam with pride. And to be sure, my refrigerator beats the hell out of Nigella’s.
The YSFP is all about fermentation this fall: former Lazarus summer intern Cody Hooks is running canning classes for New Haven natives, Farm Manager Jeremy Oldfield just gave a demo on how to DIY sauerkraut, kimchee and kombucha, and next month we’ll be hosting the guru himself, Wild Fermentation author Sandor Ellix Katz, for a talk about his years experimenting with miso, mead, and more.
To get you up to speed before Sandor’s talk, the New York Times has a number of articles on fermentation and microbiology this week: check out Sandor visiting friend of the YSFP (and former Chewing the Fat speaker!) David Chang’s Momofuku and answering questions about at-home fermentation, plus a piece about the microbiologist partnering with chefs all over the country to help them understand the scientific underpinnings of fermented flavors.