My nan and her enthusiasm for natural remedies and whole foods influenced my life path and introduced my palate to the funky gorgeousness of fermented and pickled food. Since my childhood I had always been hungry for these tastes and was therefor thrilled to come across a copy of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz in a bookshop about eight years ago. My passion for all things fermented was rekindled and I was happy to find a universe of new tastes that extended beyond rejuvelac and pickled beetroot. Yes, I had a seventies childhood!
Since then Sandor Katz has almost single handedly reinvigorated interest in fermented foods in the US, Australia and Europe. With his new book The Art Of Fermentation he has created his masterwork, an in depth cross cultural exploration of the philosophy and technique of fermentation.
The first chapter, “Fermentation as a Coevolutionary Force” explores the concepts and philosophies that underpin the process of fermentation in relation to us. Indeed Katz invites us on a journey:
“As you read this book, and experiment with fermenting foods and beverages, I encourage you to cultivate not only the specific bacterial and fungal communities necessary for the ferments, but a consciousness of ourselves as coevolutionary beings, part of a greater web of life … a consciousness (dubbed) biophilia.”
As a naturopath this fits with our holistic philosophy and belief that we cannot be simply reduced to a body, a dis/ease …. rather we are part of the complex matrix of life, and death, that is the natural world. We need to respect and nurture the complex microbial world that lives within us, on us and around us and whose colonies form community with us offering a myriad of influences on our health and wellbeing.
The chapters that follow are dedicated to a smorgasboard foods and the mind boggling array of fermentation techniques that are utillised by different cultures to transform fresh foods into unique ferments. At one moment you might be reading about herbal elixir meads and in the next about propogating mould cultures for tempeh and koji. The recipe we have used most out of this book, apart from the sour tonic beverages such as kombucha is probably for dosai, delicate crepes made from fermented rice and lentils. Be warned that the recipes in the book are embedded in Katz’s wonderful narrative style, it is not a conventional recipe book!
Katz also addresses numerous controversies and concerns that surround certain preparations such as kombucha and raw meat ferments. His masterful navigation through the science in addressing these issues is illuminating and he makes the concepts easy to grasp for the lay reader.
The last two chapters up the ante, “Considerations For Commercial Enterprises” and “Non-Food Applications of Fermentation” are a call to action providing support for upscaling fermentation based enterprises and the application of fermentation to a variety of non-food practices such as agriculture and art!
Even if you only take a handful of recipes away from this tome the marvellous journey through cultures, techniques, philosophy and future directions of fermentation is well worth the effort. This is a book I will be dipping in and out of for years to come. Five stars from me!