Sandor Ellix Katz (aka Sandorkraut) isn’t the first person to evangelize fermented foods, nor thankfully will Katz be the last (not in the least because he has created so many acolytes). But I can think of several good reasons why Sandorkraut is perhaps the best-known fermentation evangelist to-date and for the forseeable future: For example:
- He has a compelling personal story.
- He researches and knows his topic well.
- He makes things the reader knows nothing about seem both familiar and doable.
- He communicates with humility and honesty.
- He “writes about the transformative power of fermentation with such infectious enthusiasm that he makes you want to try things just to see what happens,” according to fellow evangelist Michael Pollan, himself no slouch when it comes to writing.
For the above reasons and more, Wild Fermentation is a classic inside and outside of its field. If you trust our word without explanation: Saueressen strongly recommends Wild Fermentation as most people’s first purchase to help guide their foray into the world of food fermentation. Read on for more details…
Why Read Wild Fermentation?
Wild Fermentation looks like a modest book at first blush. However, the number of fermentation topics it covers would be staggering and overwhelming were it not for Katz’ ability to make everything sound so darn fun, and show just how truly easy most fermentation really is. Through this book, Katz breaks down technological, technical, cultural and psychological barriers to empower his readers to experiment and integrate fermented foods into their own lives. He covers historical, philosophical and practical angles, including recipes and processes to get the reader started with their own projects.
Katz does a fantastic job discussing variables (such as heat, salt, sugar content), and prepares the reader to experiment and see what works best for them. That in itself is huge. In an internet culture spreading so much fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), with so many people posing as experts only to scare and confuse newcomers with unfounded claims, Katz stands apart from the crowd — through his life, writing and work — as an ethical model and a timeless resource of unquestionable integrity.
Wild Fermentation and its bigger (albeit younger) sibling, The Art of Fermentation (review forthcoming) bring thousands of hours and dollars of experience and expertise to their readers for pennies on the dollar.
Who: Suggested Audience
Anyone interested food will benefit, one way or another, from familiarizing themselves with the material in this book. This includes people who just enjoy reading about food (the Michael Pollans of the world; although they’ll probably want to start experimenting), as well those of us who enjoy preparing food from scratch.
More specifically, live-culture food and fermentation hobbyists of all types and fermentation enthusiasts and professionals alike should read the book purely on the basis that it has had such a massive impact on the revival of interest in food fermentation in the United States, and for good reason. Wild Fermentation presents few, if any pitfalls, making it easy to recommend wholeheartedly as an introductory and foundational text in an evolving and expanding field.
How: Suggested Use
Read the book itself straight through the first time as a sort of well-written and interesting fermentation travelogue. Then go back and use it for inspiration and recipes, over and over again. Katz presents a wealth of cultural information in a very concise and compelling manner, then backs up each fermentation topic with all sorts of recipes that show how quickly variations on a basic theme can lend diversity to the topic.
For local (Willamette Valley) residents: Please buy the book from (and support) The Book Bin.
If you read this review and are non-local, please ask your local bookstore before purchasing online. If you do purchase online, we ask that you purchase Wild Fermentation through us directly using the link on the sidebar to the right of this article. Doing so directly supports Saueressen, the publisher and the author. Thank you!