Julia.Hankin

.Ramblings on cooking and eating, healthcare, medical anthropology, herbs and alternative medicine.

Fermentation FEVER: a journey of self-discovery

Earlier this summer, I had this fantasy of becoming a fermentation/probiotic diva. Images of neatly lined up jars of kimchi and saurkraut and steaming loaves of homemade sourdough bread swirled in my head. This was THE summer. All the recipes I looked at, including the one in fermentation expert Sandor Katz’s comprehensive Art of Fermentation, seemed so nonchalant about it all. Throw some things together, add a pinch of this, teaspoon of that, wait ten days and then WHAMO- delicious effervescent things. 

I really did try. And well, the summer is not over, so I’m still going at it. First, my boyfriend and I attempted kimchi, traditional fermented Korean cabbage that’s spicy and amazing. We ended up with something tasty, but nothing that came close to the powerhouse that is traditional kimchi. We were a bit lazy and didn’t go to great lengths to find gochugaro (korean red pepper) and we didn’t have any fish sauce on hand….lesson learned. I would rate that fermentation experiment as a C+: edible, but nothing near what it could be. 

(note: NOT OUR KIMCHI OURS DID NOT LOOK THIS TASTY)

My next experiment, sadly, did not pass the class. I had read up on sourdough bread and thought if the people of the internet could do it, so could I. I diligently mixed together my flour and water in equal measure and let it sit to collect all those yummy wild yeast. At first, the scene looked normal. After two days (and a pretty drastic change in humidity), my sourdough starter looked simultaneously sad and scary. Oh man. It smelled like stinky cheese. And it was then that I realized that stinky cheese smell is only incredible when it’s coming from cheese itself. I could have kept a little longer to see if it mellowed, but the faces my housemates were making every time they went into the kitchen compelled me to say sayonera. Fermentation grade: F

You’d think I’d give up after that. You would hope. After dumping my last, failed experiment away, I really did feel discouraged. I knew fermentation bliss was an elusive, elusive thing, but I didn’t expect it to be THAT elusive. And then I remembered something. I remembered the time I was 12 and dreamed of playing harp, and then after a month of no improvement begged my mom to quit. I remembered the time I excitedly purchased a dress pattern and yards of cotton, got home, cut out my dress template, and then lost all drive when I realized the sewing machine was kinda hard to use. 

Okay, fine: I expect instant gratification. I guess I always sorta knew that but was just kinda hoping I’d learn to become diligent and patient when it came to learning new skills. Nope. Nope nope. You know, I might have not produced any super viable fermented products. I might not be a fermentation diva. But at least I learned that maybe, just maybe, you gotta kinda stick with it. 

Yesterday, I started a new fermentation project (saurkraut!!!) with my friend Fredrieke. I feel very relaxed about it. Maybe in ten days we’ll have delicious, caraway flavored goodness or maybe we’ll have a stinky mess. I think I’m finally seeing the beauty of fermentation- it’s unexpected, it takes time, and the finished product is always a little uncertain. 

(AGAIN, NOT OURS!)

Spring 2013 Schedule

I’m just going to limit myself to 6 words about each of my classes because otherwise I would go on and on for the rest of eternity. 

Introduction to Cell Biology with Amy McClellan: Cells, cells, cells, golgi bodies, biochem, cytoplasm! 

Medieval Virginity with Stephan Higa: Medieval history fun! Sexuality and gender! 

Developmental Psychology After the Grand Theories with David Anderegg: Freud! Piaget! Babies, Children, angsty teens! 

Ethnobotany with Valerie Imbruce: People, plants, eating, medicine, spirituality, wow. 

Dance on Film with Terry Creach: Ballet! Postmodern dance! Me, attempting film critique. (…Sorry, that was 7. This is really hard)

FWT was a delightful, snow-filled, herbal blur! This winter I spent seven packed weeks in Boston working with a pretty kick-ass Acupuncturist/Chinese Herbalist (who is actually the mother of a current Benningtonite!), learning all about the fundamentals of Chinese Medicine and the ways it’s becoming integrated into the modern world. I was surprised to learn that less than 10 years ago, Acupuncture was a pretty big stigma in the world of Biomedicine. You’d likely never hear an M.D or R.N recommending acupuncture treatments to help alleviate pain, and health insurance companies certainly didn’t cover them. Over FWT, I was able to shadow Acupuncture students giving treatments to patients at the Boston Medical Center, one of the biggest public hospitals in the city. This was such a neat model of Integrative Medicine, and allowed me to see the possibilities of incorporating alternative modes of healing into more mainstream ones. Another neat aspect of my FWT was getting to work with some of the 700 Chinese Herbs that are out there…700! 700. Chinese herbalists have to memorize the names and five properties of each of these, which pretty much blew my mind. My favorite, so far? Bai shao, or White Peony Root, which is really great for headaches, dizziness, and any sort of blood deficiency.
It feels great to come back here and to be able to reflect on it all with other Bennington folk. There is this wild frenzy of discussing FWTs among the student body which is GREAT. 

FWT was a delightful, snow-filled, herbal blur! This winter I spent seven packed weeks in Boston working with a pretty kick-ass Acupuncturist/Chinese Herbalist (who is actually the mother of a current Benningtonite!), learning all about the fundamentals of Chinese Medicine and the ways it’s becoming integrated into the modern world. I was surprised to learn that less than 10 years ago, Acupuncture was a pretty big stigma in the world of Biomedicine. You’d likely never hear an M.D or R.N recommending acupuncture treatments to help alleviate pain, and health insurance companies certainly didn’t cover them. Over FWT, I was able to shadow Acupuncture students giving treatments to patients at the Boston Medical Center, one of the biggest public hospitals in the city. This was such a neat model of Integrative Medicine, and allowed me to see the possibilities of incorporating alternative modes of healing into more mainstream ones. Another neat aspect of my FWT was getting to work with some of the 700 Chinese Herbs that are out there…700! 700. Chinese herbalists have to memorize the names and five properties of each of these, which pretty much blew my mind. My favorite, so far? Bai shao, or White Peony Root, which is really great for headaches, dizziness, and any sort of blood deficiency.

It feels great to come back here and to be able to reflect on it all with other Bennington folk. There is this wild frenzy of discussing FWTs among the student body which is GREAT. 

Fall 2012 Schedule

Little late, but just thought I’d share what I’m up to this fall:

The Journey III: The 1860s- Eileen Scully (We create fictitious personas and then write letters responding to different historical events from their perspectives. Woah.)

APA Workshop: Focus: Human Rights: Women and Girls- Liz Coleman, Susie Ibarra (My first CAPA class- I’m loving it so far.)

Reimagining Memory in Biology in Beyond- David Edelman (Who I’m convinced is one of the best human beings I’ve ever met.)

Contemporary African II- Souleymane Badolo (Well, Okay, Solo is obviously also on that list…)

Definitely making this delicious recipe from SmittenKitchen this weekend. Now I just need a good reason…
I’m thinking this Saturday’s Mend and Make will be that reason. Kione Kochi, who started Mend and Make last year, is an incredible crafter, baker, and general diy goddess. Mend and Make is an all day workshop where students can bring in sewing or mending projects and eat delicious baked goods together. Kione provides materials like fabric, thread, and needles, as well as expert assistance and inspiration. I’m thinkin’ this is the perfect time to hem all the skirts I’ve been putting off for months. 

Definitely making this delicious recipe from SmittenKitchen this weekend. Now I just need a good reason…

I’m thinking this Saturday’s Mend and Make will be that reason. Kione Kochi, who started Mend and Make last year, is an incredible crafter, baker, and general diy goddess. Mend and Make is an all day workshop where students can bring in sewing or mending projects and eat delicious baked goods together. Kione provides materials like fabric, thread, and needles, as well as expert assistance and inspiration. I’m thinkin’ this is the perfect time to hem all the skirts I’ve been putting off for months. 

Just sayin’ hi…

Hi guys,

My name is Julia! Thanks for stopping by. I know there isn’t a whole lot to look at, but things are most definitely under construction. Let me know if you want to chat about Bennington, the healing arts, botany, delicious recipes, or some crazy places to look for kooky antiques around here.