Yesterday was my semi-annual Microbe Lunch so I thought I would share my menu and some pictures. I do this every semester to celebrate the end of my laboratory course. I prepare a Feast made up entirely of foods and beverages that involve microorganisms. These may be foods in which the microorganisms are a major component of the food, involved in the preparation of the food, growing the food or preparing an ingredient. My goal is to impress upon students (and my colleagues) the beneficial role of microorganisms. Many of these items you may have heard about and hopefully others are new to you. I hope you try them out. You might be amazed at the important role microorganisms have on the food you eat. Since I started doing this, it has been interesting to see many of these items appearing more often in regular grocery stores and not just the health food or international markets. What I also like to stress is that every culture (pun intended) has some type of fermented/preserved food so it is also a great way to bring cultural awareness to a science course. If you can recommend any foods I'm always looking for new items to add. Here's my menu with some brief commentary.
Miso soup - fermented soybean paste
Kefir - a fermented milk beverage. Very similar to yogurt but drinkable. Lot's of kid oriented packaging now available.
Yoghurt - fermented milk (Greek and traditional)
Assorted soft and hard cheeses - this year's menu included emmentaler, bleu, gouda, chevre, butter kase, brie, camembert, cheddar, edam, fromage blanc, havarti, Limburgher (bonus points for trying this one)
Breads including sourdough bread - bread is obvious but traditional sourdough also includes bacteria for the souring process. Hard to find traditional sourdough in Missouri but Panera sourdough is close enough.
Crackers - only varieties made with yeast
Summer sausage - fermented meats (note the ingredients: lactic acid starter culture)
Quorn - delicious meat substitute made from a fungus. You can buy it in different formats that look like chicken nuggets, chicken cutlets, chicken patties, etc. When I started doing this it was not available in the US (only in the UK) but now can be found almost everywhere.
Sauerkraut - fermented cabbage
Kimchi - spiced, fermented cabbage from Korea
Pickles - any pickled fruit and vegetable is traditionally made through fermentation but most commercially produced products bypass the fermentation and just use vinegar. Nevertheless, the vinegar was produced by microbes.
Tempeh - fermented soybeans. A great meat substitute. I love to cut it up in cubes, marinate it overnight and then stir fry it the morning of my feast.
Olives - As with pickles, the preservation involves fermentation by microbes
Soy sauce - fermented soybean
Coffee - coffee beans are prepared using a fermentation process
Chocolate - the cocoa bean is processed using a fermentation step
Tea - also produced by fermentation of the leaves
Vinegar - fermented wine
Diet soft drinks - aspartame is produced by microbes
Soft drinks with high fructose corn syrup - high fructose corn syrup is made using microbial enzymes
Root beer and ginger ale - non-alcoholic fermented beverages
Spirulina - cyanobacteria (used to be called blue-green algae but they are bacteria, not algae). A high protein supplement. Many people add it to shakes and other drinks for a protein boost.
Mushrooms - Hard for some people to believe that these things are classified as microbes but what you eat is the fruiting body produced by these microbes.
Soybeans and Peanuts - these and other legumes grow with the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria in the plant's roots.
Quark - another type of fermented milk. A little thicker that yogurt.
Vegemite - a spreadable yeast extract.
Natto - fermented soybeans from Japan