Fun and Friendly Fermentation
Fermentation is quite rightly back in fashion. The resourcefulness, the timelessness and the earthy satisfaction from taking up this ancient art in our kitchens of today, touches us all, at a visceral place in our soul.
Making sour dough, or sauerkraut, kefir or kimchi connects us with a primal past (fermentation is quite possibly our first foray into culinary harnessing of Nature’s gifts), making now a resource for the future, affords a deep sense of security. My jars, bottles and pots of various fermentations, make me feel like a foraging farmer at home with myself. I have to care for these various growing and transforming processes, the muslin covers speak of calm, knowing care. I’m in my element with the kitchen looking more like my childhood’s laboratory of magic potions, everyday.
I was rather lucky to have Daphne Lambert of Green Cuisine, all to myself to learn about fermentation. However, when I passed this on in my own Kitchen Therapy workshop, the sparks between this female group flew around the room… the photos from the night say it all, our campfire camaraderie, repartee and exchange, was deeply nurturing for us all. We do need to eat, so yes, we do need to cook. But it’s about so much more than feeding our bodies. In this workshop, as well as on my own at home, this slow, simple yet powerful process of fermentation, affords an incredibly rich and grounding pleasure, absorbed in this FUNctional task. The process of putting by, indeed enhancing vegetables and grains for the future, nurturing the bacteria we so badly need, is an important sign for our times.
We live in a world of separation and threat, where the unknown but disliked ‘other’ is to be denigrated, annihilated, abhorred. The foreigner, the addict, the gangster… anyone who is not us, quickly becomes a nameless dread.
Antibiotics, antibacterial sprays abound as if we humans are able to eradicate this first form of life, and as if this were desirable. I do know how lucky we are to live in a world that understands germ theory and has had the intelligence to create medicines. However, to over use and attempt to kill off rather than get to know and live alongside bacteria, is a ridiculous error of judgement, and one we are about to pay a huge price for.
Our enemies or those we project onto are rarely what we imagine. When I teach cooking, and find someone who doesn’t like an ingredient, I encourage a little getting to know you exercise. Think of someone you didn’t like when you first met them, then later, when you found out more about them, they made you laugh or you realised their gruff voice covered up their shyness, you warmed to them. Foods are the same, find out what they do for you, where they come from etc and you open up curiosity and understanding so that you might feel more able to taste them - or not, but the process has softened.
We talk a lot now about friendly bacteria, but I reckon it’s us who need to be friendlier! Maybe there is also a lesson here about accepting our less attractive qualities, that do actually make us whole human beings, warts and all.
The conversation amongst us girls as we squelched cabbage into sauerkraut cannot here be repeated, but suffice to say, it was funny, it was filthy but most of all it was friendly…