Picture a man who is a true legend, one of the “unlikely rock stars of the American food scene,” according to the New York Times. His teachings and writings, the BBC notes, have changed lives around the world. His name? Sandor Katz.
Several stages of development occurred as he gained a deep interest in fermentation—starting with a childhood love of pickles. He grew up in New York City with immigrant grandparents, so he ate kosher dills, being drawn to their flavor. He also began appreciating sauerkraut and yogurt, as well, although nothing could outdo the taste of brined pickles.
In his early twenties, he began eating a macrobiotic diet, experiencing the tangible benefits of ingesting live ferments. This led to an exploration of other live fermented foods. Then, about thirty years ago, he left NYC, moving to rural Tennessee where he began keeping a garden.
Calling himself a “naive city kid,” he hadn’t really thought about how, when you grow cabbage in a garden, you end up with a whole lot of cabbage that’s ready to be harvested at approximately the same time. So, Katz learned how to make sauerkraut from the Joy of Cooking.
The process, he says, was “deceptively simple,” and it opened the door for further experimentation. What if he added carrots? Turnips? Played with the seasonings? Fermented for less time—or more time? This led to Katz making his own yogurt and country wines. Then, when he got The Book of Miso, he made some of that, too.
Katz began sharing his “private obsession” with friends, earning a reputation as a quality fermenter. When he was asked to teach a workshop about making sauerkraut at an event that turned into an annual one, his pathway in life became more clear. But, one more step needed to happen. A woman held up a jar of vegetables at one of his workshops and asked how to be sure that it contained good bacteria—not dangerous types that could harm someone.
Because of this projection of anxiety, Katz began to delve into fermentation literature, discovering that this process is about as safe as food processing can get. He ultimately wrote what Newsweek called the “fermenting bible”: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (Chelsea Green, 2003).
To discover the rest of the story, listen to it in his own words in our Farming for Health podcast Episode 13
Past Episodes of our Farming for Health Podcast
If you’ve missed any of our previous episodes, you can find them here:
- Episode One: Keto, Cruciferous Vegetables, Salt and Your Mindset
- Episode Two: Cooking, Conviviality, and Preserving the Harvest
- Episode Three: Ferments, Food Insecurity, and Wasted Food.
- Episode Four: Anti-Cancer Diet, Food as Medicine, and Vegetables.
- Episode Five: Plants, Happiness and Mindful Neglect.
- Episode Six: Whole 30, Sustainable Habits, and Loving Vegetables.
- Episode Seven: Iodine, Egg Yolk Enzymes, and Miso
- Episode Eight: Fungi, Bitter Foods, and Food Extinction
- Episode Nine: Understanding Food, Nutritional Healing and Farming
- Episode Ten: Enjoying the Process, Connection and Soup
- Episode Eleven: Monica Geller, Community and Limiting Salads
- Episode Twelve: Nourishment, Creativity, and Full-Spectrum Health
Stay tuned for more!