How do we make aesthetic judgements about food that disgusts?
Can there be pleasure and enjoyment in knowing our food sources intimately?
“Aww yuck but thanks”:
Embracing the aesthetics of the kombucha symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY)
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Abstract In this document I am proposing a short presentation of original research on kombucha and the people who make it in a domestic setting. Kombucha is made through the fermentation of sweetened tea with a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) and this starter is passed between friends and individuals. The appearance of the kombucha SCOBY has obtained many unattractive descriptions over the years, this aesthetic judgement and active recoiling by many people on first encounter is a fascinating phenomenon. In my research many participants either described their horrified first encounters with the kombucha SCOBY or spoke with relish of the horror of their friends and family when they show them how kombucha is made. Either way, for domestic kombucha producers embracing the aesthetic of having jars of the alien looking SCOBY living in one’s kitchen or in some cases bedroom is declaring themselves part of the relatively newly emerged discourse of eco-dietetics, encompassing movements like local, organic, and slow foods. My presentation will be an exploration of this, and other themes found in my research relating to kombucha as an example of how changing dietetic discourses and the increased popularity of fermented food are shifting the aesthetic experience of food in and Australian context.
Jacqulyn Evans is a masters by research candidate in the interdisciplinary space between anthropology and microbiology at La Trobe University. She trained as a chef at William Angliss Institute and worked in the hospitality industry for seven years before completing an arts/science double degree at La Trobe. Jacqulyn’s research focuses on fermented foods, in particular kombucha, the social aspects of domestic production and starter culture sharing and investigating what impact these practices have on the microbial cultures present within the kombucha symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).