Millennial Spotlight with Aurora: “I come from a Lithuanian-Ukranian background and feel a great attachment to my heritage when I make sauerkraut, so making kimchi felt like a natural and fun way to continue my fermentation journey.”

Aurora Lavender (@lavenderpreserves)
Age: 25 | Profession: UofT Grad Student

This generation is obsessed with DIY projects when it comes to food, plants, gifts, art, etc. Aurora found herself getting into the craft of fermenting foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and bread. When she’s not at the Faculty of Forestry leading tree walks or working on her final capstone project, Aurora is at one of her side-gigs which includes being a Teaching Assistant, Bartender, and occasional Workshop Facilitator. In addition to sharing her thoughts on our generation, she generously gives us an awesome, well-informed intro to fermented foods and three key points about fermentation to help us all in our journey to better health!

Read more about Aurora’s thoughts on our generation below in today’s Millennial Spotlight.

1. What traits do you have that you think you share with other millennials?
I am a total busy body. If I don’t have a full agenda I start to wonder: should I be doing more? What could I be doing right now in order to feel fulfilled? It motivates and drives me to be the best that I can be, which I think is true for a lot of people in this generation. I also enjoy collaborating with other people a lot and find that it keeps my work meaningful and connected – I am surrounded by a rich history of knowledge systems and stories and I deeply cherish the skills that I learn from those around me.

2. How do you think people perceive millennials? Do you agree/disagree?
I think often millennials are perceived as conceded and self-righteous. A lot of people in this generation have preference for immediate feedback and results, which often makes it hard to stick with one set path like Generation X or the Baby Boomers. Although I agree that narcissism and self-obsession are quite rampant within this generation especially through social media outlets, I don’t think perceptions of millennials are quite accurate. While millennial career paths can be unpredictable, they are also dynamic which has fostered interesting new spaces for co-operation and care to take place.

We are seeing a huge resurgence in traditional knowledge and food systems, one that was largely ignored by Generation X while they were caught up in advancing the world. I think that, although millennials are perceived as fast-paced and network-oriented, we are also creating new channels and opportunities for sharing across generations, classes, and cultures.

3. What are the main thoughts/concerns on your mind right now?
I am currently finishing up my Masters in Forest Conservation (with a certain Toronto Millennial Blogger) at the University of Toronto while simultaneously working as a bartender and Teaching Assistant, so I have quite a lot on my plate. That said, I am really enjoying it. For my final project, I am designing a permanent sample plot-based monitoring program for gypsy moth. I will be done in December which is very exciting.

The main concerns on my mind right now are finding work for this coming January and maintaining a positive perspective, which means making sure to take account of my mental health as well. I often go for long walks and have cooking nights with my friends in my leisure time and I find these to be very therapeutic – they help me to relax and remind me to enjoy the life I have been gifted enough to have.

4. You teach food fermentation classes, what got you into this craft and what are 3 key things about fermentation that you would share with a person who has no idea about fermentation?
I got into the craft through my work with a volunteer run vegan cafe and co-operative called Harvest Noon that used to be on the University of Toronto campus. Unfortunately, due to repair issues, they have since shut down. Harvest Noon was an excellent grassroots space for both active and passive resistance to Western food systems and ideologies. We often baked cookies for protests like the Occupy movement, held annual meetings for the volunteer bike shop across the street, had Monday night bread baking (which we served at the cafe all week) and hosted workshops on a variety of topics.

I took my first kimchi-making workshop there and fell in love with it. I come from a Lithuanian-Ukranian background and feel a great attachment to my heritage when I make saurkraut, so making kimchi felt like a natural and fun way to continue my fermentation journey. Although the kimchi I make is not authentic, it is very tasty and I buy most of the ingredients from Korean grocers like Pacific Asian Traders (P.A.T.). My kimchi will never measure up to PAT’s shelf kimchi, I highly recommend trying it! I buy most of the vegetables locally to help support local farmers and to reduce the associated transport expenditures of food production.

I began teaching workshops at Harvest Noon and then started to do them independently in other spaces such as friends’ houses or studios, The Big Carrot, and The Nooks General Store and Studio on Danforth. I regularly run fermentation workshops on a variety of topics now from sauerkraut and kimchi to kombucha and traditional condiments.

If you are a first-timer when it comes to fermented foods and drinks, here are 3 things you should know:

  1. Lactobacillus is the active bacteria in fermented foods. They work by converting the sugars in the food into lactic acid. It is formed and stored naturally in the body, but adding extra fermented foods or probiotics into your diet is important. A total of ~1 trillion bacteria live in our digestive system – weighing about 4 pounds total!
  2. Probiotics help with digestion, absorption and assimilation of vital nutrients. In other words, they help us get more benefits out of the food we are eating. They play a role in the functioning of our immune systems and help regulate blood sugar levels. They have also been linked to better energy levels and moods, and are very tasty! The fermentation process tends to create a distinct sour taste and changes the texture of vegetables. It is very exciting – you never know what you’re going to get!
  3. I heard in a podcast called “Gastropod” hosted by C. Graber and N. Twilley that women are said to be better bread bakers because of the active yeast that we naturally create. While all bodies produce Lactobacillus in the gut, the vaginal system is also a major producer! So, ladies, make some sourdough!

Some familiar probiotic products include: kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, lassi, tempeh, bread, yogurt, beer, and wine. Get out there and start fermenting or eating fermented foods!

Feel free to email me with questions (at borealislavender13@gmail.com), I would be happy to help.

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