This is something of a symbolic episode for us. Our guest is none other than Sandor Katz, often called the Godfather of Fermentation. It’s an odd nickname, given that the godfather of fermentation would have to predate the fermentation process itself – and if that’s the case, Sandor’s looking rather good for his age. He prefers the slightly less godlike Fermentation Revivalist, which is a wonderful job title in and of itself.
But even Fermentation Revivalist doesn’t seem to nail it. It’s a little bit humble. After all, most people who get into brewing kombucha, baking sourdough, making yoghurt – any kind of fermented food production in any involved manner – will have come across one of Sandor Katz’s books.
To say that his Wild Fermentation, published in 2003, is “The Bible of Fermentation” (as Newsweek once described it) feels less of an overstatement. In many ways, it’s where our modern interest in fermentation was revitalised. Its influence is difficult to overstate.
So, when David Begg, the founder of Real Kombucha, shared a panel with Sandor Katz at the Abergavenny Food Festival this summer, we were delighted to hear he’d happily join us on The Real Podcast to discuss not only kombucha, but all things fermentation.
We caught him on an early morning call from Tennessee.
Listen to the Sandor Katz interview below
Sandor’s quotes from this interview
“All the time I meet people who hear what I do and say, ‘I hate fermented food’. They’re picturing kimchi or gorgonzola cheese – what they consider to be the extremes of fermentation. I say, ‘Oh, poor you! You don’t like to eat chocolate? You don’t like to drink coffee? You don’t like bread? You don’t like cheese? What do you eat?!'”
“Fermentation began to disappear from people’s lives at precisely the same time that we became afraid of bacteria.”
“Fermentation is a strategy for safety. And yet, because our awareness of bacteria has been in the context of ‘The War on Bacteria’ and dangerous pathogenic bacteria, people have projected all of their fear of bacteria onto these traditional foods. When I say I’m a fermentation revivalist, it’s really about trying to demystify these processes for people and empower people with simple information.”
“There is no case history – no documented cases anywhere in the world – of food poisoning or illness from fermented vegetables. This is about as safe as food gets. Statistically, it’s much safer than raw vegetables.”
“I got the nickname Sandorkraut because I was always showing up at potluck dinners with sauerkraut. You get a reputation!”
“What I’m doing lends itself to lifelong learning. The topic of fermentation is more or less infinite.”
Welcome to The People’s Republic of Fermentation
In the above interview, Sandor Katz talks about his new Youtube series, The People’s Republic of Fermentation. We’ve embedded it for you below.