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S A N D O R E L L I X KAT Z

Foreword by Michael Pollan

F E R M E N TAT I O N
AN IN-DEPTH EXPLORATION OF ESSENTIAL CONCEPTS AND PROCESSES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
With Practical Information on Fermenting Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Milk, Beans, Meats, and More

The

A R T of

Foreword

he Art of Fermentationisaninspiringbook,andImeanthatliterally. ThebookhasinspiredmetodothingsIveneverdonebefore,andprobablyneverwouldhavedoneifIhadntreadit.Infact,Katzsbookisthemain reasonthatmykitchencountersandbasementfloorhavelatelysproutedan assortmentofmasonjars,ceramiccrocks,jellyjars,bottles,andcarboys,the clearonesglowingwithunearthlycolors.SincefallingunderthespellofKatzs fermentationevangelism,Ihavelaunchedbigcrocksofsauerkrautandkimchi;masonjarsofpickledcucumbers,carrots,beets,cauliflower,onions,peppers,andramps;jellyjarsofyogurtandkefir;andfive-galloncarboysofbeer andmead.Allofthem,Iamregularlyreminded,arealive.Whenitslateat nightandquietinthehouse,Icanhearmyfermentsgurglingcontentedly.Its becomeadeeplypleasingsound,becauseitmeansmymicrobesarehappy. Ireadcookbooksallthetimeandnevermakeathingfromthem,sowhy wasThe Art of Fermentationdifferent?Foronething,SandorKatzwrites aboutthetransformativepoweroffermentationwithsuchinfectiousenthusiasmthathemakesyouwanttotrythingsjust to see what happens.Its thesamewayIfeltthedaymyelementaryschoolteachertoldussomething miraculouswouldhappenifwemixedupsomevinegarwithbakingsoda. Thesemicrobialtransformationsaremiraculousandso,veryoften,arethe results:strikingnewflavorsandinterestingnewtextures,wroughtfromthe mostordinaryingredients,andnotbyusbutbybacteriaandfungi. AnotherreasonKatzinspiresustotryrecipestomakethingsyounever evenknewexisted(kvass?shrub?!)isthatheneverintimidates.Tothecontrary. Asacookbookand,asIwillgetto,itissomuchmorethanacookbookThe Art of Fermentationisempowering.Thoughthebooktrafficsinmanykinds ofmicrobialmystery,Katzisbytemperamentademystifier:itsnotthatcomplicated,heassuresus,anyonecanmakesauerkraut;heresallyouneedtodo. Andifsomethinggoeswrong?Ifyourkrautgrowsanalarming-lookingbeardof mold?Noneedtopanic;justshaveoffthemoldandenjoythekrautbeneathit. ButthisattitudehassomethingmorebehinditthanSandorKatzseasygoingtemperamentinthekitchen;thereisapoliticsatworkhereaswell.The Art of Fermentationismuchmorethanacookbook.Orrather,itisacookbook inthesamewaythatZen and the Art of Archeryisahow-toaboutbowsand arrows.Sure,ittellsyouhowtodoit,butmuchmoreimportant,ittellsyou whatitmeans,andwhyanactasquotidianandpracticalasmakingyourown

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sauerkrautrepresentsnothinglessthanawayofengagingwiththeworld.Or rather,withseveraldifferentworlds,eachnestedinsidetheother:theinvisible worldoffungiandbacteria;thecommunityinwhichyoulive;andtheindustrialfoodsystemthatisunderminingthehealthofourbodiesandtheland. Thismightseemlikealargeclaimforacrockofsauerkraut,butSandor Katzssignalachievementinthisbookistoconvinceyouofitstruth.Tofermentyourownfoodistolodgeaneloquentprotestofthesensesagainst thehomogenizationofflavorsandfoodexperiencesnowrollinglikeagreat, undifferentiatedlawnacrosstheglobe.Itisalsoadeclarationofindependence fromaneconomythatwouldmuchpreferwewereallpassiveconsumersofits commodities,ratherthancreatorsofuniqueproductsexpressiveofourselves andtheplaceswherewelive.Becauseyoursauerkrautorhomebrewwillbe nothinglikemineoranyoneelses. TheKoreans,whoknowathingortwoaboutfermentation,distinguish betweenthetonguetasteofvariousfoodsandthehandtaste.Tonguetaste isasimplematterofmoleculesmakingcontactwithtastebudsthekindof cheapandeasyflavorsanyfoodscientistorfoodcorporationcanproduce. Handtasteisthefarmorecomplexexperienceofafoodthatbearstheindeliblemarkthecareandsometimeseventheloveofthepersonwhomadeit. Thesauerkrautyoumakeyourselfwillhavehandtaste. Andyouwillhaveplentyofittogiveaway,trustme.Oneofthebestthings aboutmakingyourownfermentsissharingthemwithothers,offthegridof thecasheconomy.Inowswapbottlesofbeerandmeadwithotherhomebrewersandtakepartinasteadytradeinmasonjars,whichleavemyhousebrimmingwithsauerkrautonlytoreturnbrimmingwithotherpeopleskimchior pickles.Todelveintotheworldoffermentedfoodsistoenterthecommunityof fermentos,whohappentobeamostinteresting,eccentric,andgenerousbunch. ButofcoursethereisanothercommunitytowhichThe Art of Fermentationservesasakindofpassportorvisa:theunseencommunityoffungiand bacteriaallaroundusandwithinus.Ifthisbookhasanunderlyingagenda (anditassuredlydoes)itistohelpusreconceiveourrelationshipwithwhat biologistLynnMarguliscallsthemicrocosmos.SinceLouisPasteurdiscoveredtheroleofmicrobesindiseasemorethanacenturyago,mostof ushavefoundourselvesonawarfootingwithrespecttobacteria.Wedose ourchildrenwithantibiotics,keepthemasfarawayfrommicrobesaspossible,andgenerallystrivetosanitizetheirworld.WearelivingintheAgeof Purell.Andyetbiologistshavecometoappreciatethatthewaronbacteriais notonlyfutilethebacteria,whichcanout-evolveus,willalwayswinbut counterproductive. Theprofligateuseofantibioticshasproducedresistantbacteriaaslethal asanywemanagedtokill.Thosedrugs,alongwithaprocessedfooddiet lackinginbothbacteriaandfoodforbacteria(akafiber),havedisordered themicrobialecologyinourgutinprofoundwaysthatwearejustbeginning tounderstand,andwhichmaywellexplainmanyofourhealthproblems.

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Childrenprotectedfrombacteriaturnouttohavehigherratesofallergyand asthma.Wearediscoveringthatoneofthekeystoourwell-beingisthewellbeingofthemicroflorawithwhomwesharethesebodies,andwithwhomwe co-evolved.Anditlooksliketheyreally,reallylikesauerkraut. Inthewaronbacteria,SandorKatzisaconfirmedpacifist.Butheisnt justsittingoutthewar,orspeechifyingaboutit.Hesdoingsomethingtoend it.APost-Pasteurian,Katzwouldhaveusrenegotiatethetermsofourrelationshipwiththemicrocosmos,andThe Art of Fermentationisaneloquent andpracticalmanifestoshowingusexactlyhowtodothat,onecrockofsauerkrautatatime.Ifullyexpectthat,likeaparticularlyvibrantmicrobialculture, thisbookwillspawnthousandsofnewfermentos,andnotamomenttoosoon. Welcometotheparty.  ichael Pollan M December22,2011

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