Friday, 2 September 2011

Wild Fermentation – Sandor Katz (Review)

It is hard for me to say which is true: do I hate or love Sandor Katz? Starting with an interest in cheese several years ago I have worked my way through yogurt, labna, cottage cheese, butter-milk, nukazuke, sauerkraut, kimchee, dosai, beer and wine. Although my ambition started small after witnessing the alchemy of fermentation first hand, synapses were ignited and before I knew it my very concept of nature and the world was transformed. I went from being a timid beginner, following recipes closely equally for authenticity as for hygiene. With more practice and more research I soon learned that both former and latter were much more fluid concepts than my beginner’s mind was able to accept. I learned of the inherent strengths and weaknesses of “good” versus “bad” microorganisms and the conditions favorable to their abundance. This was a valuable lesson, after all, it taught me that cause and effect are not as simple as isolated phenomena and that they are part of a larger active environment. Fermentation can teach us all one very important lesson: that single-mindedness results in disaster.

So along comes Sandor Katz with his excellent book, Wild Fermentation. Essentially a more refined, detailed and articulate version of my experience, Wild Fermentation is a DIY textbook. It does not require obtaining special equipment, ingredients or chemicals. It eschews industrial production logic and reconnects with tradition as living practice and not frozen knowledge. It even presents an ethical, ecologically responsible perspective and rationale for why we should all be fermenting. My only problem with Katz’s book is that he wrote it first. And that I did not.

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