April 10, 2016

A Probiotic Revolution

At some point in time you may have purchased a book, The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. If you had, then you may be aware of his fermented journey. There really is something special about the Brain-Gut Connection that can only be realized through experiencing it.

Included, in the back of Sandor Katz book, is a manifesto. If you like fermented foods it’s very gratifying to make your own.

EPILOGUE: A Cultural Revivalist Manifesto

By: Sandor Katz

We must reclaim our food. Food is much more than simply nourishment. It embodies a complex web of relationships. It is a huge part of the context in which we exist. Reclaiming our food means actively involving ourselves in this web.

The foods that fill our contemporary supermarket shelves are products of a globalized infrastructure of proprietary genetic material, synthetic and often dangerous chemicals, monocultures, long-distance transportation, factory-scale processing, wasteful packaging and energy sucking refrigeration. The food being produced by this system is destroying the earth, destroying our health, destroying economic vitality, and robbing us of our dignity by breeding dependency and reducing us to the subservient role of consumer.

We need to cultivate a different set of relationships:

Relationships with Plants and Animals

This is where our food comes from, plants and animals (with microbial assistance). We cannot continue to distance ourselves from the sources of our foods, relegating it to highly specialized, mostly faraway, mass production monocultures, cut off from our lives. Historically, by necessity we related to the plants and animals we ate. We knew them, relied upon them and through their pursuit and cultivation, we were intimately connected to our environment. We need to become re-connected to the sources of our sustenance. Get to know the plants around you. Grow some herbs or vegetables. Glean and use unharvested fruit. Plant a tree, or care for one, or many. Forage weeds from your yard. If you enjoy eggs, milk or meat, consider exploring the path of raising chickens or other livestock on a small scale. Find a way to observe and participate in slaughtering and butchering. Respect, honor and appreciate the life that goes into our food. We have coevolved with these other beings, and our fates are intertwined.

Relationships with Farmers and Producers

Buy local food! Support local agriculture. Get to know farmers and buy directly from them. Agricultural revitalization is real, economic stimulus and real, economic security. Beyond the raw products of agriculture, most people enjoy foods and beverages that have been processed, whether it’s cheese, salami, or tempeh. Many of these “value added” processes involve fermentation. Support small-scale local processing and production. It means fresher food, local jobs, decentralization and greater resilience in the face of change. Local production includes, not only commercial manufacturers but small informal production shared through alternative economies, such as gift exchange, barter, voluntary donations, herd-shares and community supported models. Find a niche you can fill in the reemergent web of food creators.

Relationships with Ancestors

Our ancestors paid much more attention to their ancestors than people in our time typically do. We have our God, and canonize various historical or mythological heroes into icons, but in our time we have very little appreciation for the general continuos lineage itself. However mixed our heritage may be, we are, each of us, the spawn of ancient lineages, which have bestowed upon us incredible cultural legacies. We must remember, rediscover, and reclaim our ancestors, however we can, and honor, protect, and perpetuate their gifts, including tangible ones such as seeds and fermentation processes. Cultural revival is necessary in order to maintain their great legacy to us. Keeping it alive is the ultimate in ancestor worship.

Relationships with Mysteries

Mysteries endure. Despite all the impressive advances in microscopic imaging, genetic analysis, and other forms of scientific investigation, the realm of the microscopic is still very little understood. For that matter, so is much about our own bodies and minds. Let us honor the mysteries and revel in the fact that we will never understand everything.

Relationships with Community 

Self-sufficiency is a dangerous myth. We need each other. Love your circle, cultivate it, and enlarge it. Share food you grow or make with your community, and encourage others in their food production activities. Community is never perfect and takes hard work, because people have such varied visions, ideas, and values. But do the hard work of finding common ground, and build community with the people around you.

Relationships with Movements of Resistance

Our growing awareness as individuals creating change in our own lives, and communities can (and must) build into galvanizing social movements. While reviving local food systems, we can also address inequitable access to resources by becoming part of existing movements for food justice and food sovereignty. While making use of indigenous wisdom in our cultural revival efforts, we can also acknowledge and act in solidarity with indigenous peoples struggling for survival. While trying to limit our own carbon footprints and environmental impact, we can also join social movements demanding the same of corporations and government policies. Personal actions can be powerful, but nothing like the force of collective action.

Relationship to Materials

We must strive to maximize the use of whatever is abundant, easy, low impact and re-useable. We do not need infinitely more special equipment and gadgetry. We must interrupt the disposable society. Where feasible, scavenge materials and re-use them; process fibers from plants or animals; build a house from earthen materials. DIY culture!

These are but a few strands of a densely interwoven web of relationships that can sustain and enrich us. Fermentation is one way in which we may consciously cultivate this web. This is the daily practice of cultural revival. By engaging life forces, we rediscover and reconnect with our context.