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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved

Sandor Ellix Katz could be called a god, a guru, and a great teacher, but he's so modest he'd never admit to anything other than being a fermentation fetishist. What Sandor wants you to know, though, is that fermentation is at the heart of human consumption. Consider the simple observation that many common and delicious foods and drinks are probably fermented, including the "ordinary" such as bread, cheese, wine, and beer; the more exciting such as cider, chocolate, coffee, tea, and pickles; the ethnically wonderful such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and soy sauce; and the "healthy" such as yogurt, kefir, and kombucha. In interviews and on his wonderful website, Wild Fermentation, Sandorkraut (as his friends call him) answers the burning question, "What's so wild about fermentation?":
"Specifically in regards to fermentation, one of the themes I have encountered everywhere I've gone is that there exists a huge cultural fear around any aging of food outside of refrigeration. We are culturally indoctrinated to believe that we cannot eat safely without energy-intensive food cooling systems, and furthermore that aging food outside of refrigeration requires technical expertise and controlled conditions. Fermentation actually consists of ancient rituals that generalists have been performing forever and that create food safety. Wild fermentation is a way of incorporating the wild into your body, becoming one with the natural world. Wild foods, microbial cultures included, possess a great, unmediated life force, which can help us adapt to shifting conditions and lower our susceptibility to disease. These microorganisms are everywhere, and the techniques for fermenting with them are simple and flexible. Wild fermentation involves creating conditions in which naturally occurring organisms thrive and proliferate. Fermentation can be low-tech. These are ancient rituals that humans have been performing for many generations. They are a powerful connection to the magic of the natural world, and to our ancestors, whose clever observations enable us to enjoy the benefits of these transformations. By eating a variety of live fermented foods, you promote diversity among microbial cultures in your body. Biodiversity, increasingly recognized as critical to the survival of larger-scale ecosystems, is just as important at the micro level. Call it microbiodiversity." While Sandor is engaged in activism for better food and better health, he's also fond of promoting others who challenge the existing food system. The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved (a play on Gil Scott Heron's 1970s anthem and poem) chronicles the experiences of grassroots activists who challenge the way we think about food. In it, he profiles seed savers, Slow Food conviviums, community-supported farmers, raw milk producers, land rights advocates, and foragers who all contribute to alternatives to corporate control over our health. Sandor Katz does not use the word "revolution" lightly -- he believes these people and their seemingly simple acts of food production off the corporate grid are the basis for a real challenge to food politics as usual. And of course, he's right.
These books are a must-read for any green advocate. While you may not be ready to start your own fermentation experimentation, his approach makes it seem possible and you'll be inspired by the stories of people who are making it happen one day at a time. Getting closer to thinking it'd be fun to share your own kimchi with friends? Sandorkraut holds workshops across the United States during the year. Check his website for a schedule of events.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Laura Gyre said...

I love Sandor Katz! I saw him speak last year, but mostly I like Wild Fermentation. Most of my experiments don't live very long, but I'm working on it.

7/30/2009 03:11:00 PM  

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