Kenyon’s newest student organization, Fermentation Friends, held a well-attended and lively meeting last Tuesday in celebration of all things bacterial.
First years Lucy Adams ’23 and Abby Navin ’23, also known as the “Fermentation Fathers,” lead the club, which was approved by the Office of Student Engagement and the Student Life Committee on Monday.
“We hope to make it a nice big club; we’re just gonna be friends here—have fun making food,” Navin said.
“I think a key part of it is that … we’re just hanging out, you know? At the core of it, it’s just fermentation friends hanging out,” Adams added.
In food science, fermentation is the process by which microorganisms (yeast or bacteria) digest carbohydrates, producing either lactic acid or ethanol, which can then create a unique sour or acidic flavor.
Meeting attendees expressed interest in baking sourdough bread, brewing kombucha, culturing yogurt and making kimchi.
“You’re just, like, eating rotten things,” Adams said.
“But in a controlled environment, it tastes good. Surprisingly. It smells horrible most of the time, but it tastes delicious,” Navin said.
The club, which is advised by Andrew Kerkhoff, professor of biology, started as a joke between Adams and Navin.
They noted that while Prof. Kerkhoff no longer ferments in his free time, he “did it in the nineties and then realized that he hates kombucha,” Navin said.
“He said he did it because it was a hippie trend,” Adams added, later acknowledging that such a trend is also how this new club came into being.
Adams and Navin first bonded over their mutual love of the Bon Appetit video host Brad Leone, whose show It’s Alive with Brad Leone, has inspired many loyal fermentation enthusiasts.
Prior to the first meeting, Navin and Adams acquired a 150-year-old sourdough starter, ordered online from the Pacific Northwest. They stated that they had wanted the starter to be as close to Kenyon’s age (195 years) as possible.
While many interested students expressed that they had little or no experience, Navin and Adams are confident that the club can be a space for learning and experimentation.
“I worked at a farm for the past couple of years, and me and the farm crew would make kombucha. And we pickled everything known to man,” said Navin.
“I technically don’t have a lot of fermentation experience, but I like cooking a lot … and I cook a lot with fermented ingredients, which I’m very into,” Adams said. “And I’ve just been on a fermentation kick for the last two years.”