When I learned that I was accepted into Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Residency program, I was ecstatic. Sandor’s books on fermentation, “Wild Fermentation” and “The Art of Fermentation,” have been formative in my journey with fermented foods. So with great anticipation, I packed my camping gear to spend five beautiful April days with Sandor and other fermentationists at his home in the hills of Tennessee. 🙂
When I arrived, I was immediately greeted with smiles and Sandor’s dog, Miss Kitty Katz, who would help alleviate the dog deprivation disorder (DDD) I experience while away from home. I scored what I consider the best camping spot on site – right under the sweet smelling apple tree which was buzzing with bees. Over the next couple hours other participants from all over the world would trickle in forming what came to be a high-functioning superorganism.
Over the next few days, I would absorb information about a variety of fermented foods, some of which I was well acquainted with, but many new. Thanks to Sandor, Koji finally seemed approachable, I was introduced to a delicious Szechwan flavoured ferment called “pao-cai”, and ate a lot of cheese…so much great cheese!
The thing I love most about Sandor teaching is his flexibility and relaxed style. He instills that fermented foods, and the ways that one can prepare them, are variable. There is no one right way to ferment. Boundaries are not absolute. Sometimes kombucha SCOBYs do just fine with honey, sometimes they don’t. Bacterial colonies are constantly transforming so hard rules don’t always apply.
Bacteria are also communal and tend to cooperate in a way that benefits the community as a whole. I love that fermentation connects people and during this trip I met with some of the most passionate and collaborative people I have ever met. Claudia shared her German Easter traditions including how to make a delicious sweet cheese called “passcha.” Theodore delivered a valuable presentation on marketing via social media. Constanza, a microbiologist, showed us how to prepare slides of ferments and we looked at them under a microscope. We worked together and everyone benefited.
Sandor’s home is close to a long-established LGBTQ+ community which we had the opportunity to visit. The community consists of folk from all over the world who are redefining ideas of gender systems and binarism. They live communually on an off-grid farm where they grow most of their own food and keep goats for milk. It was beautiful to see this community thriving in the mountains of Tennessee.
Single-celled units from all over the world came together and for a brief time formed our own complex, diverse, and sophisticated superorganism – sharing food and laughter, exchanging information, and broadening definitions!
You can see pictures of my experience of the residency on our Facebook Page.