So there I was in Oxford, England at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, July of 2010, and I was desperately looking for another American, let alone another Jew.
I made small talk with everybody in the very hot lobby as I nervously looked around trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself. I was really sort of out of place. While I was surrounded by food people, I was one of five people of color, the only male of color, and the only person of African descent–visible African descent–period. I also noticed that the younger crowd was in the minority. So as everybody’s checking in, a kind-faced handsome gentleman was looking over his forms, I heard him talk and wow! He’s American! And I took one look at him and he took one look at me and the Jew-dar went off—well I had my kippa on, but mamesh-a-nes–truly a miracle I had found a lundsmann!
If you’re sitting and talking with Sandor Katz, you would never guess you are talking to someone who is revolutionizing food culture. He’s a zissen (sweet mannered) mensch. He calls himself a “one trick pony,” but his work on fermentation is the kind of independent scholarship people crave. Having seen the crowds he packs in both at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Oxford and the “fermentation fervor” he spreads is amazing. It’s nothing to see people get up at the end, taste the goodies he brings from his home in Tennessee and say, “okay I want to go home and pickle everything now…..” He’s not afraid to learn from every part of the world and incorporate various forms of cultural knowledge in his process of experimenting and re-imagining how fermentation can transform food. He even describes human development as fermentation in his lectures and points out that we’re working with a natural process that’s happening around us –and in us–all the time! It’s in the kishkes…
Sandor is the only person I know who is eager to show you his mold—good mold….I felt kind of creepy looking at his mold though–he still hasn’t converted me to his fermented ways—but I’ll probably do a class with him whilst on The Cooking Gene: Southern Discomfort Tour and we’ll see how that goes–hey I’m supposed to be passing through Tennessee!!!
The Art of Fermentation is OUT NOW through Chelsea Green Press. Some of you may be well familiar with Sandor’s previous book–Wild Fermentation or The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. Great books, get them, you need them….But this is not a revised version of his previous work; this book really picks up and goes in search of new territory and from what Sandor was showing me–this is going to be big in terms of getting people to expand their fermentation horizons. We had an amazing discussion over Detroit Reds at Vintage Virginia Apples about sorghum fermentation in Africa and the culture of sorghum beer and other bi-products therewith. Apparently I’m really missing out when it comes to fermented meat and milk–but I’ll get there—someday–just let me get past kimchi first. I’m really not there yet. He has a lot to teach me about some of the historic ferments that I keep reading about used in produce preservation, beverages, and baking processes….
For more information please visit Sandor at www.wildfermentation.com. He has a lot of stuff going on this year so snag him while you can:
Homestead Restoration and Fermentation: A Four-week Residency
June 8-July 5, 2012
UPDATE: From Sandor Katz April 30, 2012
It is my great pleasure to announce to you that my new book, The Art of Fermentation, is now available. Books are available for purchase on my website for $30 for the hardcover edition, list price $39.95. Just click here. Or if you have a local bookstore where you shop, please request that they stock the book. Or if you cannot afford to buy your own copy, request that your local library acquire it. I will be doing a lot of traveling in the coming months to promote this new book and continue my fermentation revival mission. The next six months will bring me to Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, New York, Colorado, New Mexico, California, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. Check my website www.wildfermentation.com for details of upcoming events.
Enjoy the new book!