8.04.2010

kitchen science

I love hanging out in friend Anita's house. Particularly her kitchen, which is filled with all sorts of odd, fermenting concoctions and experiments in food decay. And unlike my own kitchen, she is actually encouraging fermentation and rot.

She likes it.

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The other day, friend Anita was distracted with upgrading her vericomposting worms habitat along with no less than five children crowding around, digging through the decaying material, trying to get a more or less accurate count. While she was busy counting and playing traffic controller, I pulled out my camera and took a few pictures to share with you.

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Anita is a scientist of the purest kind. I love poking around the mysterious various jars and containers on the cupboard. Sometimes, as I run across a large bottle filled with murky looking goop, I try to guess where exactly it is in the complex food chain in Anita's home.

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Is it on the way in or out? Or out from the people and in for the worms? Or it could be out from the worms and via the soil in the garden, back on it's way in for the humans?

It's all very funky and holistic.

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I actually am not all that funky and holistic. I am more of a book reader than an activity doer. I let other people do the experiments and then tell me what they find. When I compost, I dig a hole in the ground, fill it up, and never think about it again. I have little knowledge of nitrogen and carbon and microbes and aerobic decomposition, whatever that means.  Though I love miso and mushrooms, frankly, they both sort of freak me out a little bit.  Are they really edible or have I just been lucky so far?
   
Ten years ago Anita kept me in worm poop for my spider plants.  Now she feeds me and my babies Kombucha tea and sauerkraut. I find it all very interesting from a distance, with hardly any desire to get up close to her little creatures and musky jars. I am not of the biology frame of mind.

But I have a little girl who is. Smootch, who loves bugs and jellyfish and wants to know how the trees get food and how cats make babies and has knowledge of the human body's various organs and their purposes that rivals the smarts of medical students. Smootch who started collecting biological specimens at the age of two (with one of my toe nails and a butterfly carcass). She of the magnifying glass.

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Smootch wants her own bucket of worms. Really badly.  She wants to know stuff, see stuff, feel and, if she can, taste it too.  She's never experienced any suspicious thoughts about miso.

I'm feeling rather blessed that Anita is in our life at this point. Smootch can see how it's done in ways that I would never have the interest or patience for, and, in the meanwhile, I can tentatively dip my feet into the freaky deaky microcosmos in my kitchen. To start, I borrowed a book from Anita.

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(Now that our kitchen chem and bio lessons are underway, I have to start addressing Smootch's questions about the non-organic natural world. Did I mention that she's been asking for a metal detector for two years now and that now she has an allowance of her own, she's almost rich enough to buy one? I don't even know how she knows of the existence of metal detectors?!

I wonder if the library has any books on metal and rocks?)

8 comments:

  1. Young Smootch is destined to be a great scientist I reckon. Such wonderful inquisitiveness and so very bright. What a gem!

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  2. I'm where you are on the fermenting frontier. It's easy when one recipe isn't tasty to scrap the whole thing. I love the science in the kitchen though. I need to remember to do this more often.

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  3. We've done a couple of experiments from the book I'll post soon. It is interesting to play with even if I am not as hardcore as friend Anita :)

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  4. Fermentation was a scary thought to me until I made homemade fermented pickles. Now, whatever they want to put in a jar, let's go for it!

    Sounds like Smooch may be our next Louis Pasteur. Good luck!

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  5. Sounds like my 4 year old daughter and Smootch would get along famously! My first child (who is 10 now) never would have thought of touching half the stuff my little one does. Amazing how that happens.
    She now wants to keep bugs to observe them. Yikes for me! Of course as parents we encourage them, even if we are wincing while doing it:)
    Thanks for writing this Blog!

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  6. We're making more of a mess today. Kruat with beet tops and beet kvas...yum!

    Expirements in decay...nice. I should have that on an apron.

    Anita

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  7. Homemade vanilla extract is a very simple kitchen science experiment- 2 ingredients plus patience! I make it all the time, and give it as gifts in fancy bottles. There's a tutorial on my blog if anyone's interested: http://anappleandatree.blogspot.com/2010/06/homemade-vanilla-extract.html
    (hope it's ok to post a link!)

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  8. As the mother of a scientific boy, the metal detector is the best. Target carried one by National Geographic for $15 that worked marvelously, and may still have a version there or check for used. We also found a really good adult one with an adjustable shorter handle from a garage sale for peanuts.

    Sure, I may have some holes in the backyard, but they have found nasty nails from the last roof repair, and scraps of things that I'ld rather not walk barefoot on, and they think they have found great treasure!

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