Guest blog post from Kitchen Assistant Teagan Wu
When asked if I wanted to participate in the High School Sustainability Leadership week, I immediately lit up with a smile and proposed a sauerkraut making workshop. I imagined each student creating their own jar of ginger carrots and working together to chop red and green cabbage. After much anticipation, I greeted a group of students eager to learn. In our opening circle, I was struck by each student’s openness to try a new activity and expand their understanding of fermented foods.
In my opinion, no sauerkraut workshop is complete without a snack, so we began by tasting different kinds of hummus; beet, roasted carrot parsley, and black bean. We also tasted some red cabbage, beet, garlic, and ginger sauerkraut that was ready after fermenting for about a week. This sparked curiosity and excitement among the students. I spoke about how eating sauerkraut provides our gut with beneficial bacteria thereby supporting the whole body. In my experience, it is necessary to take action in order to connect with food and care about health benefits.
As a group, we dove right into chopping carrots and slicing garlic and ginger, tasting along the way. We started sauerkraut by first massaging the slices of cabbage with a small amount of sea salt in order for the fibers to release moisture and create a brine. I remember making sauerkraut for the first time in my college fermented foods class this past winter. I got to feel with all my senses how the cabbage went from dry to wet, crunchy to soft and salty. I was reminded of these surprises as the students joined their hands together to massage the cabbage, creating a squeaky sounding music.
I got to smile and laugh with the students throughout the process. We marveled at the bright purple cabbage packed inside the jar, shimmering in the light. With three quart jars of sauerkraut beginning to ferment, we gathered in a circle once more to conclude. This felt more like a beginning than an ending. Each person got to check in about their experience and share their observations, feelings, and hopes. Several remarked on how simple the process was and others expressed how they wished to try making fermented foods at home. I looked around the circle and felt a wave of gratitude for getting to share the activity with them.
Working here in the kitchen at Hurricane Island this summer has ignited my creativity and enthusiasm for cooking. By immersing myself in preparing meals each day, I discover a rich and expansive world of possibilities. I get the opportunity to collaborate with the kitchen team to transform leftovers into new dishes. Black bean soups have become burgers with just a few added ingredients and frittatas have evolved into egg salads. I am often surprised at the recipes that take shape in the moment. I have felt energized to make sauerkraut, trusting my senses to combine beets, fennel, and carrots into colorful blends. In the kitchen one afternoon, I immersed myself in the process of chopping cabbage, listening to silence and occasionally looking out through the windows to the ocean. These experiences cooking deepen who I am and allow me to stand grounded. As we gather in a circle as community before each dinner, I feel how I am connected to others. Together we feel our relationship to place and all that sustains us.
Each day is a gift to move about the kitchen as a team cooking for community. Making meals for others and myself asks that I engage with a sense of purpose and love for the greater whole. I keep returning to how food is connected with our hearts and minds, not only our bodies.
I learn every time I say yes to cooking. I listen to natural movements that guide me to try new salads or arrange a platter of vegetables in a certain way. I delight in beauty. I arrive again and again to gratitude; breathing in the salty air on my walk to the kitchen, stirring onions and garlic, building a plate of colorful vegetables and greens from the garden, sitting at the table experiencing textures and flavors. In these moments, I relax into the present, full and aware of sensation. At the same time, I begin imagining the next meal or sauerkraut project.
It is now time to start on dinner and see what awaits in the kitchen. I wish you all nourishment of body, heart, mind, and spirit.