“The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz is a history book, cook book, science book and love story all in one. Between its nearly 500 pages, Katz manages to synthesize most every aspect of fermenting foods and beverages that one could imagine into a fun and easy read. His love for his art is evident on every page.
I first encountered Katz during a local event a number of years ago but it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 that I read this book. Surprisingly, it changed my life, my health and my menu for the better. Katz managed, with much humor and insight, to free me from the fear of microbes in my kitchen and fostered a genuine appreciation on my part for that microscopic world within a world and the alchemy it accomplishes with little time or effort from me..
Chapters include information about the history and benefits of fermentation and basic concepts and equipment, as well as how to ferment everything from from fruits, vegetables, grains and milk to meat, fish, beans, nuts and seeds. It also delves into non-food uses of fermentation and commercial enterprises. I was surprised to learn the historical importance of fermentation for food preservation and how many of the foods I eat are fermented before they hit the grocery store shelves.
I have to admit that some of my favorite parts of the book are his introduction and first chapter on fermentation as a coevolutionary force, and the epilogue he titled A Cultural Revivalist’s Manifesto.
I do want to stress that while this book does an excellent job on the how-to of fermentation and anyone can get started fermenting with the information it contains, it isn’t a recipe book. There are many other books available, by Katz and others, that offer a plethora of recipes for any type of food that strikes the fancy. Having said that, whether for the art, the science, the practical how-tos or just for fun, “The Art of Fermentation” has something for everyone to enjoy.
“The Art of Fermentation,” published by Chelsea Green Publishing in 2012, is a James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner and an IACP Cookbook Awards finalist. It is available through the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library, TN READS and booksellers.