When you spend most of your time as I do, playing with various forms of food and beverage experiments (cue mad scientist music with loud thunder and bright bolts of lightning), you find yourself searching for information in quite a few different places. I recently ran across a news article revolving around the subject of pickling and it mentioned The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. Needless to say I had to pick this one up.
After being diagnosed with HIV around 20 years ago, Sandor Katz began a journey to redefine his diet and bring more stability to his health. His quest for fermentation enlightenment led to living off the grid in a “Radical Faerie Community.” Granted you don’t have to go to such extremes but the idea is sound. Going back to our roots, building a relationship with our food and those who produce our food as well as producing it ourselves brings us back to our community. This is something that we as a whole need to embrace in our ever shrink wrapped homogenized world.
In his book The Art of Fermentation, he explores the world through different methods of fermentation. Preservation of the harvest through the use of different bacterias is something universal within all cultures. In a time when we have grown to fear bacterias as a dangerous and evil creature, we have become almost as homogenized as our factory processed foods. It is are very war to destroy with antibiotics and antiseptic chemicals that has made us even more susceptible to micro-organisms that are infinitely more adaptable than we are.
From the epilogue:
We must reclaim our food. Food is much more than simply nourishment. It embodies a complex web of relationships. It is a huge part of the context in which we exist. Reclaiming our food means actively involving ourselves in this web.
Over the past week I have been flipping back and forth through the book. Each time I stop I find a new tidbit or a forgotten slice of information, always a kernel of wisdom and understanding of the traditional ways our foods were once cared for. I was surprised to find a section that detailed Natto. This is a Japanese soy fermentation that to the uninitiated can seem very extreme (most Western palettes can not appreciate its extreme flavors). I like to feel superior, because I actually enjoy it, but the metallic and ammonia notes that can be present can throw most people off.
I find this book may very well be a resource that I will need to spend months if not years going through and exploring the possibilities posed within its pages. It is well worth the space on your fermentation book shelves.
Time for a pint…