The latest passion of my life is fermenting foods. This new love totally took me by surprise! I was at an old friend’s house, having stopped by for a quick hello and good-bye. I had driven cross-country from Austin to Ithaca to move out of the home where I lived for about eight years.
At my friend’s house I got exposed to the idea of fermenting for the first time. I was given something strange to taste; it seemed like some vegetable dip. It was delicious, and it was…radish.
So radish is one of my least favorite foods in the world. I hated it since I was a kid, and have stayed far away from it as an adult. The stuff in the jar was not radish, it was fermented radish. It was dark forest green, had a very deep flavor, full of all kinds of textures and nuances, kind of like seaweed, and I love seaweed.
The fact that my most hated thing could be transformed into my now most loved thing is what got me. All it took was fermenting it.
As we sipped our local craft beers and washed and cut vegetables, my friend told me stories about all the things that can be fermented and the things that he had been trying. I listened in awe, I felt like a child in a chocolate factory. I could not wait to come back to Austin and tell my sister all about it. I couldn’t wait to get started!
There’s a book you have to get, he said. I’ll text you the name and author.
A week or so after having returned to Austin I felt it was time to get started, but first, I had to find the book. It’s called The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. The first place I checked was Amazon, but I wasn’t ready to spend $30-something dollars, so I looked at the used version and they were $20-something, and none of them on Prime. Then I had the bright idea to call Half Price Books. This was a small magical experience because the lady that answered the phone looked in the data base and they didn’t have it–BUT!– someone had just sold it to them and it was sitting on the counter right next to her. She told me that it was in her hand and she would save it for me. I drove the one mile to the store and bought it for $20.
I read the first pages and started fermenting right away. I cut up sweet potatoes into tiny slices and set it out to ferment. I also set out cabbage and a few days later, kambucha. I waited a few more days to see what they would be like, and when they were ready my sister ate them all in one sitting and asked for more. First trial was a success! After that I fermented a whole head of cabbage, radish (of course), spiced tea with apples, peaches, more kambucha, more sweet potatoes, tamarindo, beets and more kambucha again.
It’s hard work, but when I’m in the kitchen working on a new concoction, I am in a beautiful bubble of present moment, excited about entering this new universe and very happy I have someone to feed.