Saturday 12 October 2019

Go West young man

"Go West, young man . . . and grow up with the country." is usually attributed to newspaper editor and later presidential candidate Horace Greeley. He felt that by making a difficult, and adventurous, choice, a young chap could do the state some service but also do himself a power of good. Every year since I began teaching Yr3 Food and Fermentation Microbiology aka F&F3C, the student body has been leavened by les  français a handful of whom come to The Institute under the Erasmus Scheme [prev]. Erasmus is a flagship of EU social engineering: subsidising the cost of taking young people out of their comfort zone [and away from The Mammy] to mix with others in the EU melting pot and learn new ways of thinking, eating and conversing.  Actually, I don't care which way young people go, so long as it is over the horizon and not just on holiday.

My academic colleagues shake their heads <tsk tsk> and wonder why none  (to the nearest whole number in an average year) of our students avail of the opportunity. I don't say out loud, but I suspect it's partly because none of those <tsk tsk>ers do that sort of thing themselves and so don't really have a European network of colleagues to tap for the placement of our brightest and best. It depends on how you ask the question [ne nonne num]
"Surely you want an expenses paid trip to Spain; all the chorizo you can eat; and ready access to the films of Pedro Almodovar on the telly?"
"You know that they make tea with warm water?"

I was in my one hour a week supervising lab practicals last Tuesday and one of the students, who had never been in one of my previous class groups, asked if I had any contacts in Europe or ideas about how he could position himself outside of Ireland after he graduated next May. With a quickening pulse, I asked him what field floated his boat because he hadn't signed up to do one of my computer-based projects. Turns out that he was one of two lads who had spent Summer 2019 in Dijon (where the mustard comes from) in Burgundy. So he and his pal will have completed their 12 week work placement before they sit their final exams. "My" chap had spent his time doing chemical analysis in a Kombucha lab, taking samples from the brew and measuring the phenolics, the tannins, the colour and the acidity in each batch. He'd written a long formal report for his french supervisor, albeit in English: his french is much better now than before his departure from Ireland but not yet really up to writing a report in french science-speak.

Kombucha should now be familiar to all my tree-huggin', Birkenstock-wearin', woowah-believin' readers. It is a SCOBY ferment from sweetened tea (green black white separately or together) but can also be made from fruit-juice. SCOBY? an acronym - Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast - where the yeast is probably not brewer/baker's Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the bacteria is some sort of Lactic Acid Bacteria LAB. There is a market for the stuff if you can make it in sufficient quantities and with reliable quality control.  But as we agreed, making it is the least part of the process if you intend to retire on your money before you're 50. What makes the difference between a hobby and a fortune is branding, advertising, and distribution. I suggested that he might start building the management team for his enterprise Killeshin Kombucha by flirting with students taking the Digital Marketing course in the School of Business. I've already sown the seeds for Killeshin Soy "soy sauce with a hint of guinness", ギネスのヒント醤油 which will carry off prizes for best in class at the Tokyo Food Festival in 2029.

The two francophone biologists have been recruited by our International Office to tell their bubbly and productive story to the current cohort of 3rd Years. No better men!

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