Summer Camp for Stacey
So the (relatively) cool fall-like weather we’re experiencing this week in California is taking me back in time to my elementary school days and that time-honored tradition of the what-I-did-on-my summer-vacation report. Do kids still do that? Am I seriously dating myself? The answers to these questions, I am told, are NO and YES, respectively.
Regardless, I’m going to tell y’all what I did on my summer vacation this year. Because it is fall. And when a traditional mood strikes, I go with it.
Let’s start with the who, what, where bits (if you follow YBH on Instagram and Facebook, you’ll probably already know these details. If you don’t, what’s up with that?): In August I studied fermentation with Sandor Katz at Sterling College in Vermont for two weeks. The summary: it was everything I’d hoped for and more.
Not only did I get a chance to learn some new tips and techniques for fermented foods I’ve been making for years, like sauerkraut and kimchi, I got to learn how to make a whole host of other fermented foods I’d never tried before. And, I got to learn about all of it from a man whose books I’ve loved and whose advice I’ve relied upon since I made my first batch of kraut. And here’s the kicker: I got to travel with and study alongside another of my fermented foods gurus, Chef Karen Diggs, Kraut Source’s Chief Fermentation Officer. You can read her take on our adventures here.
During our stay, Karen and I worked side by side with 10 other humans dedicated enough to learning the art and science of fermentation as to willingly sequester themselves away in the tiny and oh-so-charming Sterling College in Craftsbury Common for two weeks.
Things I had trouble adjusting to:
- The 3-hour time zone difference
- The fact that most of Vermont has no cell service
- That road names are rarely, if ever, marked. This, combined with the aforementioned no cell service (and therefore no GPS), thing makes getting lost inevitable.
- That everyone in Vermont is so very nice. And very helpful when you find that you are lost (see #3 above).
- Did I mention NO CELL SERVICE?
Some of the most wonderful things I learned:
- Having the opportunity to work alongside someone I have admired from afar was just as special and delightful as I’d hoped.
- Purple rice beer is delicious and beautiful and should be made and imbibed often.
- Vermont is filled with beautiful, radical, fiercely independent people and jaw-dropping beauty. I went thinking that residents referring to their tiny corner of their tiny state as the Northeast Kingdom was a wee bit pretentious. I now feel they actually might be underselling it.
- I like tempeh. Homemade tempeh, that is. Homemade tempeh and store-bought tempeh are two entirely different (vegetarian) animals. The former is sweet, nutty, and one hell of a fun and fascinating science project to make. The latter is meh. I remain steadfast in my dislike of natto, however. Sorry Sandor!
- You don’t need a lot of specialized equipment, a temperature-controlled, ultra-hygienic room, or antique crocks brought over from the old country by your great-great-grandmother to start fermenting. You can use what you have on hand, borrow, kluge together, find at garage sales, etc.
- If you don’t already own a copy of Sandor’s Wild Fermentation, you should remedy that. Now.
- I kind of loved being a guest ‘grammer while attending Sterling. Karen and I were invited to take over the college’s Instagram feed in order to share our experiences with our followers and theirs. If you missed it, you can scroll back through my Instagram feed or Sterling College’s.
Since I returned home in mid-August, my re-entry into Silicon Valley has taken some adjusting to but in different ways. For starters there’s too much readily available cell service and WiFi. (Why are we so connected all the time?) And the roads here are all clearly marked. (Where’s the adventure in that?) But most of all, I find myself missing the camaraderie of cultivating communities of bacteria in a community.