The Zymurgy Collective, more affectionately referred to as ZyCo, was originally founded by Miriam Kudler-Flam ’16 and Laura Cohen ’14 in 2011. The two created the club so the University would have an official campus space for students who wanted to work on fermentation projects such as making sourdough, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
“ZyCo was basically a bunch of eager, curious, and silly students sitting around the Earth House kitchen table, brainstorming projects and field trips and squishing sauerkraut and drinking kombucha,” Kudler-Flam wrote in an email to The Argus. “We often had a lot of ideas and not a whole lot of collective-wide organization so it was very free form, person by person, and project to project based.”
According Kudler-Flam, ZyCo died out in 2013. Kudler-Flam left the University between 2013 and 2014, and when she returned in 2014, many of the previous members had either graduated or, like her, were busy with other commitments.
ZyCo is now back; perhaps the club needed more time to ferment. Keren Reichler ’16 said that she had been thinking about starting a fermentation collective for a while. She recently revived ZyCo, and the club’s first meeting of the year took place on Monday, Nov. 2.
“Our new mission, based on our first meeting, is to learn, eat, share, experiment, and educate [others] about fermentation,” Reichler said. “The idea is to have a group of students that can share information, learn from each other, facilitate workshops where we ferment things, and share fermentation with other people.”
Additionally, the club is considering creating a recipe book for fermented products, establishing a culture bank, and developing an online platform.
“The [online platform] will be a place where people can share photos of their ferments,” Reichler said. “We want to have a sort of help/troubleshoot section where you can write in and say, ‘Help! This looks really gross, what do I do with it?’, and someone else could help you. The platform will also have recipes and maybe even art and music that are inspired by fermentation.”
Reichler’s interest and inspiration to revive ZyCo comes from a variety of places. One of these places is a personal project about fermentation that she has been working on this semester in a group tutorial.
“Basically, what I’m interested in is how fermenting and fermentation can help us think about a new environmental politics and a new way of thinking through issues of the body, health, and local knowledge,” Reichler said. “So for me, I think fermenting is much more than just a practice that you make from entity. That’s really an important part of it, but it’s broader. It includes a lot more than that.”
Reichler sees the process of fermenting as a way to value knowledge that you create about your body. She will be bringing this personal ideology to ZyCo.
“We often outsource how we treat and heal our bodies to experts, and over the years, we’ve lost confidence and powerful knowledges and practices for healing ourselves,” Reichler said. “So I’m interested in how fermentation can help us rediscover ancient wisdom about healing; it’s about learning how to take care of ourselves and our community.”
Despite being a reactivation of the old ZyCo club, the revival of ZyCo is a new formulation of the old club in a many ways.
“We’re also learning from things that they learned didn’t go well [the last time the club was active], like how to preserve institutional memory and how to sustain our collective over the long-term,” Reichler said. “They also experienced a lot of different things and set up cool events. I’ve been trying to organize an archive so that we have all of their documents to look through and can learn from their experiences. For example, they organized a fermenting feast, which we can use for inspiration.”
Currently ZyCo is planning on making sauerkraut for its first public event, a launch workshop at the end of this month. Jed Siebert ’16 is glad that ZyCo has been reactivated so that it can provide space and knowledge, such as this event, for creating fermented foods.
“I’ve been interested in fermentation for a little while now, and have been doing some stuff on my own for the last few months, so I was so excited to see a group dedicated to fermentation was forming,” Siebert wrote in an email to The Argus. “I’m really excited to learn more fermenting techniques and other recipes from other members, as well as share the joys of fermenting and eating fermented foods with a community of people who feel the same way about fermenting as I do.”
ZyCo is open to all students, particularly those interested in DIY practices, supporting local food production, and those who want to learn how to make old family recipes.
“ZyCo is about fermentation as a community ritual, as an art, and as a politics,” Reichler said. “ZyCo is about remaking community, honoring life-affirming decomposition, challenging the industrial food system, decolonizing health, celebrating the micro-organisms that make up our world and re-discovering ancient wisdom.”