It’s world environment day, I would like to share one of my efforts to live an environment-friendly life as possible: my green green diary. I reuse my music and course papers which used 1-side only. I cut and hole them sneakily using my department’s stationary and bind them in my beautiful green leather cover I bought in East London market. Hence I don’t need to buy books for diary, and I can just bind the papers later to keep my writings. Happy world environment day!
Inspired by the Indomie Uniqmie competition, I tried to push my creativity on preparing instant noodle. This instant noodle tempe reflects myself – A food scientist, technologist, fermentist, who loves food so much and play around with it. The feeling of creating something new playfully always one of the best rewards.
How to Make
- Cook noodle in boiling water, drain and dry with paper towel
- Mix with 1 tsp of vinnegar in a clean bowl, then mix with 1 pinch of tempe starter
- Incubate in warm room temperature (I did 32 degree Celsius for 30 hours) until solid white
- Cook as tempe, I fried it and seasoned it with the instant noodle’s seasonings. You can also rub the seasoning on the noodle tempe before cooking.
I am grateful for the NEIFT’s graduate student most prestigious Suppliers Award this year, but this is mainly not about me. It is about the food-related sciences eco-system here in the United States that objectively supports students with resources, regardless you are an international student who will go back to your country.
NEIFT (Northeast Institute of Food Technologists) is a professional affiliation for food industry professionals. Like many institutions in the US they have this “give back” culture, which donators collect money to support individual students and student events.
Last year, I noticed my inspiring senior won this award and she wrote in the application that she wanted to go back to Turkey to teach. That gave me a clue that the committee is not necessarily give the awards just to recruit the awardees to the food industry here.
I received the award with the intention of going back to Indonesia in my application and they appreciated it.
This is a strengthening example after the IFT Thesis Video Competition that allowed an international student like me to represent the US IFT to go to the UK. Apart from many social issues that seem compromise newcomers and diversity, such objective culture in the US is something we all need to celebrate and learn from.
In addition, tempe seems to attract more attention. From what I shared about tempe in my application, the committee saw it interesting enough to conduct a talk in an upcoming event. The host even printed Indonesian Tempe Movement‘s how-to-make-tempe flyers and distributed it in the event.
I hope this will inspire people in terms of trying to openly share our own unique identity and passion beyond what we thought would be rejected. I am very grateful for this career ecosystem that can appreciate that.
I would like to congratulate Thanh P Vu, Weicang, Ruojia, and Tianxi from UMass Amherst who also received other awards in the event.
I want to thank my family for the support, my advisor Dr. Xiao, my recommender Prof. Colin Denis, my mentor Prof. Clydesdale and Dr. Lorraine Cordeiro, my inspiring senior Cansu Eek and William Dixon, and many more people that I cannot include.
Scroll down to see galleries, video, Food Story, and recipes!
Making this dish brought some meditations about early cooking techniques, its depth of cultural, social, ceremonial, and sesual aspects in its simplicity. Thanks to Michael Pollan’s Cooked book from an inspiring chief friend Adrian and weekly pork belly making with my cook boss Hendro, I jumped up and down in happiness when I tasted the combination of seasoned pulled caramelized meat, crackling bark/skin, and potato rolls just came out perfect.
Barbecue resembles on of the earliest cooking technique – placing food near the source of heat until it is more fun to eat: tender, tasty, fragrant. The technique provides low heat and smoke from the burnt woods, which over time cook the food and infuse it with flavors. The word “barbacue” is found similar to “barbacoa” in European languages, “barbicu” in Caribbean and Timiucua of Florida, and translated as “framework of sticks set upon posts” in Haitian. The etymology spread shows its long history, including an interesting story of the first barbecue in China. It was accidentally found by leaving a house burnt with the family’s pig inside. The son traced the amazing smell and found the tender meat under the crackling skin below the burnt remnants of the house.
Along the process of making this dish, I enjoyed witnessing many art and science wisdoms. The reaction of salt that pulled the water out of the meat and skin; how the water in the wood chips boil, vibrate, and evaporate carrying the woods flavor molecules; how the delicate heat penetrated the meat slowly and eventually liquify the meat “glue” protein, collagen, making it tender; how the once-elastic skin is now crackling by losing water and the heat changed the skin components’ structure.
This pork shoulder cut itself is preferred not without any reason. I found a perfect balance of skin, a layer of fat underneath, and abundant fibrous protein. After the meat comes off very easily from the bone, it is true that the bone-attached meat tastes richer.
Now the potato rolls. I first wondered, why do you put potato in bread mix? Maybe instinctively people new that potato is also starch and would blend in while adding a little bit of distinct flavor. Anyway, it turned out great, especially right after baking. I could taste occasional brittles and sweetness of the potato inside the porous bread network.
Making it buns or sandwiches, the combination of pork meats and potato rolls worked well to me while they were hot. After they cooled down and the collagen be intact again, I would say a more moisture would be better. This is what the barbecue is for!
Barbecue sauce also resembles a combination of nature and human technology. The base of this sauce turned out to be tomato sauce and brown sugar, which are processed beforehand with certain techniques that humans developed. It is adorable to think about the combination between tomato’s umami, brown sugar’s sweetness, paprika’s and cayenne pepper’s spiciness, and vinegar’s acidity. It is like a full-round flavor, and we haven’t talked about each depth of flavor.
All together, this dish sounded American to me, which this is a way of cherishing my life here. However, after reading, hearing, and tasting this food’s story, it is not only about America anymore. It is a complex accumulation of human instinct, senses, culture, traditional, and our relation to nature. This food inspired me that saying barbecue is a traditional, non-technologist, non-modern way of cooking is not necessarily true. Barbecue itself is a technology, and technology is always a part of our human brain, a part of our nature. This food is a revelation that technology is a human nature. Being tech-y is natural.
PORK SHOULDER BARBECUE
3 lbs pork shoulder with skin and bone (“Boston butt”)
6 tsp himalayan pink salt
6 tsp sugar
2 handfuls pecan wood chips
1 disposable pan
1 any heat-resistant bowl
1 aluminium pocket for smoker
1 convection oven with grill in
- Score pork skin, make it easier to break
- Mix salt and sugar, rub all over the pork shoulder to season and get the crackling skin later
- Leave overnight uncovered on the tip of bowl so the water can drip
- Preheat oven at 250 F
- Soak wood chips in water for about 30 minutes, providing water that will smoke and carry the flavor
- Drain and place them inside a shallow aluminum pocket, close and score with knife so the smoke can get out
- Place the smoker pocket at the bottom of the oven
- Fill out pan halfway with water, and place on an upside-down heat-resistant bowl at the bottom of the oven, to catch drippings
- Five minutes later (giving time for the smoker), place pork shoulder on the grill above the pan
- Monitor the temperature, it will be done at 190 F, more or less 6-8 hours, to ensure it kills all the dangerous germs
- When it is above 185 F, crank the heat at 500 F until the skin is crispy, about 3-5 minutes. Do not forget to remove the smoker out of the oven beforehand, otherwise it will smoke so badly.
Ingredients & Materials
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup scalded milk, cooled
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 big bowl
1-2 greased pan(s)
1 egg, beaten for wash
- Activate yeast in warm water
- Mix all the remaining ingredients except flour
- Add 2 cups of flour
- Add the remaining flour
- Knead on lightly floured surface until elastic
- Place in a greased bowl, turn once so the grease covers the dough
- Let it rest for 1 hour covered
- Punch the dough at the center, flip
- Leave for 10 minutes
- Divide into balls
- Place on greased pan, leave for 1 hour covered
- Brush with egg wash
- Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 canned grilled diced tomato, drained
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 black pepper
- Mix all the ingredients
Cette nourriture est attractive pour rencontrer la nature et la culture. Les fruits frais se rencontrent la croûte et tarte à la crème, qui a évolué le long où la créativité humaine a conduit à ce que la nature a fourni. Le beurre et croûte friable; les riches, crémeux, et parfumé crème vanille; combiné avec les doux – baies aigres faire une telle beauté. Il n’est pas parfait, mais il était encore un beau portail pour commence le voyage!
It is a beauty of a meeting between nature and culture. Fresh fruits meet the carefully crafted pie crust and cream, which evolved along where human creativity led on what the nature provided. The buttery and crumbly crust; the rich, creamy, and fragrant vanilla bean cream; combined with the sweet – sour berries make such a beauty. It is not perfect but it was still a beautiful gate to begin the journey.
Making tempeh is something I miss a lot here in New England. Originated in tropical Indonesia, not so many Indonesians make tempeh in countries with 4-season after they move out.However, making tempeh brings a wholy different sensation than just cooking and eating it. You never make any same tempeh. The way you touch, boil, soak, stir, pack, and store would affect how it is formed. Relying on the white mold Rhizopus spp. to grow and unite the beans together, any other germs on your hands, bowl, plastic, leaves would add a new dimension of diversity, compounds, and taste. An example, Indonesian tempeh commonly contains Vitamin B12, produced by Klebsiella who comes from not-sterile water.
Watching the foliage of New England fall outside, a banana leaf-covered tempeh crossed my mind. Why not these beautiful maple leaves?
I took a stroll and collected few maple and ivy leaves, and worked on it in the kitchen. Japanese food and origami took part in this creative process. How they combine both inspired me to find a new and natural way to fold the leaves into a pocket that can encase the beans.
I’m sitting by the window where I used to eat my meals before and after my shifts, just this is my last day working here. I have to say the Hampshire Dining Commons of UMass Amherst has made my current self see a different person to my old self.
1. Food cultures around the world are beautiful
We have so many menu rolls – English breakfast, American, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korea, and many more. I learn a lot about different cooking and serving tehniques, which make me think about their own cultural and philosophical roots. It’s such an expansion of my “to hunt” food dictionary for future travels – when I taste them in their very homelands.
2. There’s always a space for home-cooking
On the other hand, there is a LOT of options. Everyday. All you can eat. However, this new standard makes me appreciate more of home cookings. Where we touch our foods from the very beginning and watch them transform to be edible, hot, and tasty. We then sit down and savor in calm or with people we love.
3. Making/preparing the foods make it more delicious
I can take whatever I want, but when my shift ends I always crave for the foods I serve! Watching its glaze, smelling its aroma, and feeling the texture when I serve is like stimulating my sense and taste preception before eating.
4. It’s a big responsibility to control your eating in an all-you-care-to-eat dining
Indeed. I went from 136.6 lbs to 144 lbs, back to 137.5 lbs. I went from 1 palm serving to 2-3 plates, back to 1 palm per eating. My face bloated. The turning point was when I stepped back, asked my self, “is it really healthy? Is it really how I’m investing in my self”. The enemies are: want to have everything, “everyone’s like that so I’m okay too”, and not to check the nutrition facts.
5. Nice people make a nice workplace
It’s pretty much same everywhere. A workplace is also a place when different people meet, in their own good or bad days. However, nice people are truly energizing. Their smiles, greetings, and helps always made my days. I see so many different people, but I think being nice to others overcome our looks, achievements, or groups. That’s what make other people’s day better, and that’s what good thing that other people can get from you.
6. Being a server: It’s good to give
Even it is just scooping foods that don’t eveb belong to us, serving gives good feeling like other giving acts. Of course, then I knew simple things like smiling, “please”, “how’s it going?”, or “have a good day” be very meaningful.
7. Being a server: People are very different
By being a server I also enjoyed watching many people walked across in front of me. So many stories can be told. Good days, bad days, cool looks, new couple, good friends, finals week. People are so different, and that’s beautiful.
8. Happiness is an initiative
In many cases a job is not always what someone wants to do for living. Sometimes it’s also tiring thing that we do after school or other things. And sometimes it’s hard to find one or two people smiling back. At first, I thought that’s the new normal and I didn’t need to smile first anymore. But since I realized how important a smile is by beig a server, I don’t want to lose that. In fact, I then be surprised how the smile spreads when I just smile first, express my happiness, not waiting for other people to be nice first.
9. What boss is the real boss
The reall boss is not who can only get things done, but also takes care of people and working atmosphere. Gladly, I found another role model in my boss. He smiled to everyone, he threw jokes, he asked things nicely, he said thanks, he said please, he spoke with his eyes sincerely, he worked with his heart.
10. The importance (and beauty) of a smile
Again, many people went back and forth in front of me serving. Countless cool styles every season. But smiles are definitely what make people “good-looking”, good-to-be-looked-at.
11. Heartwork speeds up time
When we work wholeheartedly, time flies faster.
12. I work with dads, moms, grandmas, sons, daughters
Other employees that sometimes we have a fuzz with are dads, moms grandmas sons, and daughters. “If that’s my grandma, what do I want her to experience in her workplace?”
13. Language fluency is crucial
When we speak in a language we are not native, we often say things that we don’t mean, without realizing it. And what matters then is willingness to step back, understand if it doesn’t sound really nice, and appreciate everyonems effort.
14. An educational system needs such workplace for students
Bottomline, this working-while-studying is something I would really recommend everyone to experience. For my food science field too, working in a restaurant gave me so many practical insights and especially the love of food. Such experience should be a part of the whole education package. I’m feeling extremely grateful.
It has been 3 months since I arrived here in the US, one of the leading nation for food science and technology. We are talking about the emergence of high-protein chocolate bars, non-fat milk, decaffeinated coffee, gluten-free cookies, olive oil spray, pasteurized (separated) egg whites, and countless other food products that might not exist couples of years ago. A little bit further, it is also about products those can withstand for years of storage and distribution, delicious flavor regardless the much lesser amount of calorie, and creamy texture without containing fat. And furthermore, it includes the specialized diet for cancer patients, technology to separate bacteria from food using magnets, foods designed for Mars journey, and many more sophistications. It is food science and technology.
My main life for the upcoming 4 years would be in the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst). It is a distinct pleasure to be studying here for my Master and Ph.D. since UMass Amherst’s Food Science department had received many exceptional awards, namely ranked no. 1 for Food Science doctorate program in the US by the latest ranking from US National Research Council (NRC). Regardless determining what is the best in anything is relative in reality, it has always been a dream to taste and go through the highest education on my passion of food through the best possible environment. And now I am ready!
I have been hearing so many talks about choosing things that you love, do what you are passionate, find your passion, and other sayings with a similar tone. And this would be my first time to study mainly about food, what I found as my passion.
I cannot tell enough that it is so, so, different when we are doing something we are passionate about. I cannot hold to be excited prior to classes I attend, in the classes I attend, the assignments given, discussions with professors and advisor, and even out-of-school activities like grocery shopping, cooking meals, working part-time, and of course eating.
In class, I receive insights and patterns about current concentrations in food science. I don’t say direct knowledge because I think everyone can dig more through Google or more scholarly ones like Web of Science, but we need to know what to look for, which I become inspired through the classes. The food science academic world here (particularly Ph.D. education) is no more talking about mixing “healthy” ingredients to create a food product, for example: making low-calorie noodle using green algae. It should be something more that can contribute to the structured knowledge of food science. It is more like discovering a new principle of how Vitamin E absorbed in our stomach cell. Those studies would be seen from global view as tiny bits which then connected to each other, and then utilized for something useful for society.
Through discussions with professors and advisor, my strongest impression is how open and equal the system is. It would really depend on who teach and mentor you, but so far I find the relationship between students and professors or advisor is equal. We can be just like friends, and the advisees are encouraged to have deeper knowledge in things we are interested in than the advisors. It is so convenient to just relaxedly discuss my research plan while walking out of the building after class and share thoughts, foods, or problems informally in their offices (Well, of course, we need to respect their business and find the equilibrium away of being too chatty).
The practice of multidisciplinary collaboration is also obvious here. In general, there is no stigma that our field of career should be linear. For example, we can take engineering for bachelor degree then food science for graduate study and combine them. Talking about food science, there are many career opportunities. Being in food science is not necessarily be a researcher, there are many aspects to dig out like entrepreneurship, engineering, marketing, regulation, military, and many more.
Talking the education system in general, which is new for me, I feel a different positive energy from the university’s big family. I sense a vibrant energy of development and achievement. University is your place to develop your self to the highest, come to your professors to discuss, come to the administration staffs to get a clear sense of opportunities, refresh your self in campus facilities, have your self a nutritious meal in campus dining, ask a book in the library and we will get it somehow for you from other universities through our networking system. And everything comes in a time-precise and reasonable manner. Everyone respect’s others’ time and no matter the mistake everyone is given a chance to give his/her explanation, and they listen.
DAILY LIFE INISGHTS
What I am studying in my classes might sound as another language from another planet to other people. We get deeper and deeper into a technical mechanism to fill the knowledge gap or ignite new science frontier through research. And there is where daily life here balances my days, in the form of another learning method in food science through grocery shopping and cooking!
Doing grocery keeps my self reminded about the output of the field I am studying. The colorful healthy, fresh, and exotic food products make me excited along with how they shout their quality promises. While pushing my trolley, it is like walking down the alley in Toy R Us back then. It ignites imagination too actually. How do you think our food products alley will be in 10 years from now? What kind of flavor? What kind of health benefit? How long shelf life? What kind of trending lifestyle?
Then I go home carrying at least 2 big plastic bags, trying to keep them balanced on my bike’s handlebar, cycling as fast as possible because I cannot wait to cook my new ingredients.
Every time I cook, I cannot hold my brain to think what is happening inside the food, what is interacting between the ingredients, and what is caused by all of them. It is just a review session of my courses “Hey that brown is the Maillard reaction!”, “I gotta make this more caramelized by heating a little bit more”, “No, I’d never add any more salt to this already 30% daily value sodium soup”. And by realizing that every ingredient in food has its own function and purpose, cooking now becomes without thinking.
Actually, we don’t really need somewhat food science knowledge to do this “thoughtless” cooking. It is pretty common sense. We add oil to lubricate the pan and drag the flavor out of “taste-giving” components like onion, garlic, shallots, etc.; we then add some main components of our dish that need to be heated first to make it soft or edible like meats, carrots, thin-sliced potatoes; after that we add the ingredients that we don’t want it to be too dry or wilted like spinach, tomatoes, or even apples; and then we can add “texturizer” like broth to add texture, seasonings like salt and pepper to give a proper taste, and so on.
Basically, like any other things in this world, there is no rule! What I do often to improve this no-thinking cooking is to keep seeking adventures by eating new foods every week and get the sense of proportion from the dish. For example, when we see and taste the spaghetti sauce carefully, we can get the proportion of ground beef, onions, garlic, parmesan cheese, and oregano. That’s it! The rest is experimenting in our own lab (re: kitchen).
Working in campus dining indeed delivers other unique insights in this food fantasy. It is so different with home cooking. We cook on aluminum robots and throw buckets of ingredients with aluminum big scoops. However, it is awesome to get involved in such settled system that serves all-you-care-to-eat foods for a couple of thousands of people every day in safe, nutritious, variative, and delicious manner. Seeing 5 liters of chicken pot pie, 10 liters of scrambled eggs, or 3 sacks of potatoes make me ask my self again about the definition of food.
Being a food science student in the US gives me the sense of being connected to the discipline in the whole nation. The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) presents itself to be really close to the students through the student chapter (IFTSA) spread in almost every college and university, making students be involved in a nation-wide network that includes, but not limited to, senior academia, industries, independent professionals, and governments. Those parties are connected to various activities and services like scholarship grants, competitions, certifications, trainings, workshops, seminars, forums, and internships. As a student, I can spot my self to be in this certain part of the big picture of food science career.
Quite many friends from more collective culture like where I come from get some cultural shock on how people be individualist. However, I find it very positive. Slowly I can see how people have their own priorities and respect others’ business. Everyone has his/her own reason and purpose, and there is nothing that makes it wrong like social stigma, or at least the society keeps striving to eliminate things like that. I really like the general idea of not judging, and respecting everyone as a unique individual.
There is always a logical reason of something for being done. The best example is the orientation program. Without the need to regard the explanatory speech on why the program was done, I could tell that the orientation program was conducted to get new students get to know the campus, the cities around, their rights, and new friends. It was all done through brief and effective sequence of events organized by no more than 20 committee members, which they mingle among new students with no boundaries and become good friends.
As no doubt on the importance of punctuality, I find a culture of being on (or in) time here as an absolute exemplification. Teachers are watching their watches at 9:59 AM, waiting the clock turns 10:00 AM to start their classes exactly as scheduled, friends arrive outside my house 5 minutes earlier to pick me up, and the same goes for other informal activities like dining out.
Another very crucial one is fun! I can see most activities are done as informal and fun as possible. And since everyone is considered equal, it helps a lot to make things fun. A genius class program also exemplifies the fun class. It was a class pot-luck where everyone brought foods to be served, and the teacher turned it into a simulation of foodborne illness outbreak. Even prior to exam, my teachers don’t make it as something scary, quite the opposite, they assure us that it would be okay. My outmost impression is that we do education processes not just for exam grades.
Talking about tangible culture, other people might think the US with its hamburgers and hotdogs for all season has no real culture. It is not true! Maybe because we can enjoy those foods mostly everywhere over the globe, we don’t find it exotic anymore. However, living here really gives the atmosphere that connects every food, place, and people of the US culture. I cannot forget eating a Shake Shack cheeseburger under the biggest screen in New York Time Square among people with superheroes costume, drinking a cup of hot chocolate and cheese steak while watching a UMass Football game at Gilette Stadium, cracking peanuts when watching Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park, or holding a slice of pizza when seating outside of a friend’s house that faces to the thick forest of Amherst. I cannot say it is not a culture.
So far I find what people told me about the high quality of US education is totally right, and studying something what I love turns out to be a pleasing life aspect that I can never say enough of it. And beside the formal education, there are many educating things that one cannot imagine without really live the life here. I am feeling so grateful!