Cooking & Eating, Folklore, Technique

More About Why People Ferment

Kind of, sort of, you may consider this a follow-up to my previous post about the rhetoric and logic of why people ferment.  Two of the folks who I’ve interviewed for this project — one a very old friend, and one a fairly recent one — both had some very interesting observations about why they make pickles, and maybe why other people do too.  To a certain degree, they engage with some of the reasons bloggers lay out for pickling — fermentation as tradition, environmental consciousness, health, etc. — but when I said before that those rhetorical moves are far from comprehensive — well — I think you’ll see what I mean.  Just read:

The reason I started fermenting in the first place is actually because, even though I grew up — well, I grew up in a less urban city than most and my parents had a garden the whole time I was growing up. But I didn’t realize until I lived in New York how important growing things was to the basic thing that I wanted to do with my life. And I lived in a teeny tiny little apartment.

So, growing things — as much as I could — was basically the original excitement for me of fermentation. Because I wanted — I basically wanted to farm.

And now I’m living — we moved to where we are in the country. But — like — I’m getting the benefit from the harvest of so many things. Including things from other people’s gardens. They kind of dump stuff on my doorstep and say: ‘here, I have too many of these.’ Like the 20 pounds of cucumbers that are now lacto-fermented in my fridge.

Fermentation is farming.

Hana, 10/2014

Making kimchi and sauerkraut is really just part of cooking and getting interested in other food cultures. I think — not to sound preciously progressive; I feel like it’s a very annoying thing that white people say — but I just think that being vegan, you don’t want to eat as much American food, veganized. It’s just not all that delicious.

I was trying to figure out how to be vegan and not spend a lot of money in my early days. There are people that eat like this and it’s not special. It’s not — like — vegan. It’s cooking what you eat. Cooking the food that you’re eating and it’s cheap. And it involves not putting stuff in the trash. So I think that’s kind of how fermenting stuff kind of came about as well.

— Sara, 10/2014

For both Hana and Sara, there’s a smattering of common humanity and an element of tradition mixed in there.  But that’s not really the point.  I asked.  It’s not tradition, both of them told me, but waste reduction, dealing with large quantities of produce, finding a delicious diet as a vegan, and managing to eat on the cheap when your philosophical convictions require that you not rely too heavily on big, corporate, processed food.

In Sara’s words, from elsewhere in the interview: if you’re vegan, why are you just relying on a bunch of corporations to give you your food? Even if those corporations don’t — like — make veal, they do make the problem that veganism is trying to solve.

And in Hana’s words: honestly, a big part of it is not wanting to waste.  I hate having stuff go bad in the fridge.  I hate it.