Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home Again, Fermenting

I just returned home after eight days visiting friends and family on the Other Coast, and as I set about making dinner with the root vegetables that survived my absence, it hit me how much I had missed my own kitchen. I suddenly felt so much more grounded, chopping onions and hearing them sizzle as I dropped them, handful by handful, into the frying pan. I certainly can't deny the luxury of being cooked for and fed (thanks, Mom), but I am nonetheless relieved to be back among my battered pots and scarred cutting boards.

The upshot, however, of the holiday festivities, was that I came into possession of several wonderful books about food, among them Sandor Ellix Katz's Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Life-Cultured Foods. I already knew of Katz via his website,

and am excited to have a hard copy to take into the kitchen with me. I'm currently tending to a sourdough starter and a "bug" for ginger beer.

Recipes aside, what I appreciate most about Katz's work is the eloquence with which he articulates the relationship between eating and activism, while making a case for exploring fermentation:

"Resistance takes place on many planes. Occasionally it can be dramatic and public, but most of the decisions we are faced with are mundane and private. What to eat is a choice that we make several times a day, if we are lucky. The cumulative choices we make about food have profound implications.

Food offers us many opportunities to resist the culture of mass marketing and commodification. Though consumer action can take many creative and powerful forms, we do not have to be reduced to the role of consumers selecting from seductive convenience items. We can merge appetite with activism and choose to involve ourselves in food as cocreators. Food has historically been one of our most direct links to the life forces of the Earth. Bountiful harvests have always been occasions for celebration and the appreciation of the divine . . .

. . . Not everyone can be a farmer. But that's not the only way to cultivate a connection to the Earth and buck the trend toward global market uniformity and standardization. One small but tangible way to resist the homogenization of culture is to involve yourself in the harnessing and gentle manipulation of wild microbial cultures. Rediscover and reinterpret the vast array of fermentation techniques used by our ancestors. Build your body's cultural ecology as you engage and honor the life forces all around you." (Katz, 27).

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