Why I Ferment (and why you should too)

Last year, I got started with fermenting. I started small. It began with home brewing kombucha, a fermented tea, and expanded to sauer kraut in an amazing crock my grandma gave me for my birthday.

I had heard an an interview on NPR with Sandor Katz who had just published and new book called The Art of Fermentation the year before, and was intrigued. I did a bit of poking around, remembered that the friend who taught me to brew kombucha had mentioned a book called Wild Fermentation. After I looked it up, and realized it was by that same guy who had caught my attention so strikingly on the radio, I decided to pick up a copy.

You should do the same! Even if you don’t ferment!

Wild Fermentation is so much more than a cookbook. In it, Sandor Katz offers his expertise in getting you started. It’s less a cookbook and more of a helping hand. He gives quite specific recipes, but encourages the reader like a friend would, to go out and find your own ferments.

What really connected me to his style of fermentation, though, was the spiritual aspect of it. Yes, fermented foods are full of probiotics. Yes, they have lots of readily absorbed vitamins and nutrients. Yes, fermenting is a practical way to preserve a garden harvest. But for me, thanks to Mr. Katz’s gentle guidance, it’s also about connecting with other living things.

When you allow foods to ferment wildly, that is, to pick up the natural flora and fauna in your own space, what you are doing is forming a partnership. You’re not going to the local brewers’ supply and buying a strain of yeast. You are offering a comfortable home and hoping that new friends take up residence. You can’t make them grow. You can’t put them in the jar yourself. You have to close your eyes, reach out your hand, and wait for the microorganisms to reach back.

The last chapters of the book especially moved me. In those chapters, he talks about life, death, and social change, and he draws a comparison between wild fires and fermentation. Like Katz, I’ve seen the detestation of fires, although not a close as he has. I will never forget watching the fires burn down out of the mountains and down to the sea when we lived in California. The change in the landscape is dramatic and undeniable, painful, and destructive, despite the new life that rapidly rises from the ashes.

But, as Katz says, there is undeniable change in fermentation also. Flavors become stronger, foods become more nourishing, spoilage slows or ceases. It makes me think of Nonviolent Communication and how we can peacefully create change through partnerships without tearing everything down to ashes.

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

~Martin Luther King Jr.

Transitions and Nonviolence

It’s 6:30 AM on a Saturday.  The family is asleep.  I’m partially asleep.  The world is covered with snow from a late night flurry.  Or whatever you call it when snow falls.  Was it a storm?  Who knows.

It’s quiet in the way only an early morning with a fresh snow can be.

It’s been a hard few months.  The transition from California to the Midwest, from perfect weather every day to summer heat to winter cold,  from working in an office to being home with the kids, from being home with the kids to job hunting (because the cost of living actually went up out here), from spending all day with Cricket to sending her to daycare a couple of times each week (which I hate), has been tough.

My counselor back in California will tell you that I don’t do well with transitions.

And it’s true.  I don’t.  I don’t like them.  I’m tired all the time.  I feel disconnected from my friends back in California for whom life is moving on.  I feel defensive with my husband who seemed to forget what a horrible housekeeper I actually am.  I feel frustrated with the kids who certainly have their own agendas most of the time.  I feel sad that I am so caught up with the daily grind that I can’t seem to find time to make friends here, which in turn leaves me feeling isolated and lonely.  I feel attacked and criticized and sad.  The kids are fighting, my husband is pissed off at the kids, the dog is sick, and things are just generally not going well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend Paris.  She’s a labor and deliver nurse, IBCLC, soon to be midwife, and someone I look up to.  She always knows how to say things just right.

She’s been talking for ages about this Nonviolent Communication thing.  I don’t know that much about it, but I guess it’s part of what helps Paris always know what to say when things get tough.

I haven’t wanted to learn more about it.  Wanting to learn more might be an admission that something is wrong with me.  It might mean that I’ve got a weakness and someone might take advantage of it.

Recently on a facebook group for moms that I moderate, some drama broke out.  There was gossip, backstabbing, and general nastiness.  A dear friend from grade school who is Muslim (you are in my heart every day Afifa) taught me that in Islam backbiting, talking nasty about people you pretend to be friends with, is one of the greatest sins.  That is something I have carried with me since 7th grade, and so when I started seeing that in the group, I started trying to shut it down.  There was a backlash, and in the end, I was so hurt by what happened subsequently that I ended up leaving the group.  A group I created.

So now it’s a double-down situation.  Learning more about Nonviolent Communication means that I may need to bear some responsibility for how things ended in that group when I feel completely victimized.

I ended up messaging Paris and very casually asking, “So if someone wanted to learn more about NVC, where would they start.”

Now, I’m here with three books all staring at me like accusing cats:  Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook by Lucy Leu, Connecting Across Differences: A Guide to Compassionate, Nonviolent Communication By Jane Marantz Connor, Dian Killian

(By the way, here’s a link to the books in my Amazon Affiliate store. Purchases through here earn me a very small commission.)

I want to start reading these books, but I don’t want to admit that I want to start reading them.

Also, to be perfectly honest, I really stink at finishing non-fiction books.  There generally aren’t enough dragons in them to keep me interested.

But something needs to change.  I want a peaceful, happy home.  I don’t like feeling hurt and defensive all the time.

I’m tired of feeling sad.

Have any of you read these books?  Did you feel like your outlook and home life changed at all? Did they make a difference