Reviewed by Tricia Edgar
The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft
of Live-Culture Foods, 2nd Edition
Sandor Ellix Katz
Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016
320 pages, 7 x 10 inches
Are your vegetables going wild? Whether you love vegetables or you just want a bit more excitement in your culinary life, Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation is a classic to explore, and it’s now in a revised format.
While Wild Fermentation might look like a how-to book or a recipe book, it actually begins with biodiversity. To Katz, fermentation is more than just a way to preserve food. It’s a way to cultivate the body’s ecosystem and promote a “peaceful coexistence with microbes.”
The book contains recipes, but it also contains an exploration of our culture’s concern about germs and how this fear of germs has led us to feel tentative about other microorganisms, even the beneficial ones. Instead of fear, Katz promotes exploration, encouraging people to experiment with simple and more complex recipes that allow readers to bring some of the tiny wilderness of microorganisms into their lives and bodies and promote better health.
From the glories of mead to the delights of fermented coconut desserts, Katz explores the cultural implications of fermentation as well. He examines how we’ve homogenized both our food and our culture through mass production and explores how we can get some of the DIY back into food culture. Katz even delves into the more spiritual side of fermentation, exploring cultural relationships with decomposition, change, and the transformation of harvested materials into long-lasting food products.
If you’re looking for recipes, Wild Fermentation won’t disappoint. It’s a thoughtful book, but it’s also a practical one. It covers the basics of vegetable fermentation such as the classic kimchi and sauerkraut, but it also explores ferments such as cheese, beans, and sourdoughs. For vegans, there’s also exploration of non-animal-based ferments as well. For those who are feeling prone to exploration, there are delightfully enticing recipes such as persimmon cider mead. If you’re looking for a thoughtful walk through the cultural implications of food with a substantial group of well-planned recipes, try out Wild Fermentation.