Fermenting Knowledge in Upper School

Parker’s Upper School students in Gigi Mathews’ Chemistry of Cooking class have been hard at work putting their recently acquired knowledge of fermentation to use when Mathews challenged them to make kimchi.

This course, open to juniors and seniors, has a specific focus: “How nutrients are altered by cooking processes is critical in understanding nutrition. This course examines the connection between the macromolecules we eat and how they are changed chemically by cooking.” With this focus in mind, Mathews led her students in a unit on fermentation—a process of metabolism in which an organism converts a carbohydrate, such as starch or sugar, into an alcohol or an acid. For example, yeast performs fermentation to obtain energy by converting sugar into alcohol.

“This year,” Mathews explained, “we made vegetarian kimchi since we have a student in class who is a vegetarian. In traditional kimchi, the savory flavor of kimchi comes from fish sauce and salted shrimp as part of the kimchi paste. To make up for this savory flavor, we made savory vegetable broth with green cabbage, kelp, shitake mushrooms and onion. It came out even better. We enjoyed our kimchi by making custom ramen bowls once the kimchi was done fermenting.”

The students were thrilled to see the process unfold in front of their eyes, which reinforced their new understanding of fermentation. And the Parker community was delighted when the students graciously offered kimchi to anyone who wanted to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

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