Wild Fermentation and Sandor Elix Katz, Part 2 of 2

 I recently had the chance to conduct an email interview with Sandor Katz, author of the book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. The book is an easy, appealing DIY guide to fermentation. This is part 2 of our 2 part interview. Read part 1 of my interview with Sandor Katz here.

Lee: What are some of your favorite foods you’ve discovered through your interest in fermentation?

Sandor: I haven’t met a ferment I don’t like to eat or drink. I’ve been exploring different styles of miso, and I’ve been making lots of a chutney-style short-fermented miso known as Finger-Lickin’ Miso. Yum. I also love using my sourdough to make savory pancakes with grated vegetables. And I love many fermented tonic beverages, but my favorite is the extremely simple Beet Kvass.
Lee: You draw connections between your interest in fermentation and the local food movement and farming. Can you say more about how they’re connected on a personal level? On a global level?
Sandor: Taking a step back and thinking about the transition of humans into settled agricultural communities, it makes no sense to put all your energy into crops that are ready at a single moment unless you have developed techniques for preserving those crops, classically fermentation. Agriculture only makes sense in the context of fermentation, and fermentation is an important part of our legacy. Virtually everyone’s favorite foods are fermented, and most of the foods we consider gourmet are the products of fermentation. The local food movement must revive not only farming but associated fermentation processes. That is what people really like to eat. Rather than supporting multi-national corporations and their global infrastructure, we must channel our food dollars into the tangible economic stimulus of local food. The work of reclaiming our food is multi-faceted.
Lee: You are a long-term HIV/AIDS survivor. How are fermented foods important to the healing process?
Sandor: As someone who has been living with a chronic disease for almost 20 years, I am very suspicious of exaggerated claims of the healing powers of specific foods. But fermented foods are typically more digestible and their nutrients more bioavailable than their unfermented counterparts. This is good for anyone’s health. In addition, live-culture foods, ferments which have not been cooked, with bacteria still intact, replenish intestinal bacterial populations that enable us to digest food effectively, extract nutrients, and protect us from bacterial pathogens. In our chlorinated, antibiotic-saturated world, we all could use some of this live-culture medicine. The powers of live-culture foods are less about treating specific diseases than improving overall digestive health and immune function. Though fermented foods have not cured my HIV, they have kept my digestive function remarkably good, especially considering the HIV meds I take every day. 
Lee: What’s next for you?

Sandor: I’ve created a teaching kitchen near my home in Tennessee, where I’ve been teaching intensive hands-on fermentation workshops. Info at I’m also exploring some realms of fermentation that I did not address in Wild Fermentation, among them techniques for fermenting meat, with an eye toward another book on fermentation at some point.

Sandor Katz is teaching the class "Wild Fermentation" at Mississippi Market's West 7th Street location on Tuesday, July 28th from 6:00-8:30 pm. The cost is $30, or $25 for coop members.