My guest today is fermentation revivalist Sandor Ellix Katz. I became aware of him when I read his first book Wild Fermentation, which I consider to be the basic book on the subject that everyone should have. His books and the hundreds of fermentation workshops he has taught have helped to catalyze a broad revival of the fermentation arts. A self-taught experimentalist who lives in rural Tennessee, the New York Times calls him “one of the unlikely rock stars of the American food scene.” His latest book, The Art of Fermentation (2012), received a James Beard award. Sandor teaches fermentation workshops around the world. www.wildfermentation.com.
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
“Make Your Own Fermented Foods for Nature’s Probiotics”
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
GUEST: Sandor Ellix Katz
DATE OF BROADCAST: October 16, 2014
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about – oh, you know what? I actually read this every time I get to the show and this morning, I forgot to put it out. There’s so much stuff going on this morning. Here we go. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and this is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world and live toxic-free. There!
Okay, lots going on. But you know, there’s lots going on my life, there’s lots going on in the world. The first thing I’d like to say is that I’d like you to go to my website. Go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com and you’ll see that you can sign up for my newsletter.
I have this newsletter that goes out every Tuesday. And if you sign up for the newsletter, it will tell you all the shows that are coming up that week and it also tells you different things that I’ve been posting, new things that I post on my website.
I have a Q&A blog where people ask questions and I answer them. And also, I’m always posting new websites where you can buy toxic-free products. I’m particular saying this today because this morning, I have four or five really incredible things that I’m going to be posting next Tuesday in the newsletter about electromagnetic fields, about cellphones, about toxic chemical exposures.
There’s so much going on in the world. There’s new ways that people are labeling organic foods. And by subscribing to my newsletter – well, you hear about a lot of it from my guests. But if you subscribe to my newsletter, you can hear about a lot more things that I’m posting on different areas of my website and just keep up with all of these.
You can also sign up for my Facebook and Twitter and all those things. Just go to my website and find out what the other resources are in addition because I’m just so excited to be giving you all these new information. I’m really excited about what’s happening in the world and what other people are doing.
Anyway, we’ve got a great guest today. All the guests are great, but I just have to say that because every time we have a guest, I think that they’re a great guest. That’s why I chose them to be on the show.
It’s Thursday, October 16th 2014. We’re going to be talking today about making your own fermented foods. This is something that I do at home sometimes.
One of the reasons why I wanted my guest on today is because I want to find out more about how I can do this on a regular basis because I think it’s such a good idea and there’s so many benefits. I just get tripped up sometimes, so hopefully we’ll have some troubleshooting here as well as find out why you should make fermented foods and all their benefits and some fermented foods that you can make pretty easily.
My guest today is fermentation revivalist, Sandor Katz. I became aware of him a few years ago when I read his first book, Wild Fermentation. I consider this to be the basic book on the subject that everyone should have.
And if you’re listening to this show and you’re not fermenting foods, I highly recommend that you just go by Wild Fermentation and get going because you’re going to find out why you should be eating fermented foods today.
He also has another book called The Art of Fermentation, which received a James Beard Award. That looks at different types of fermentation throughout the world. I haven’t read that book yet, but it sounds very interesting and is the kind of thing that I would like to read.
So hello, Sandor. Thanks for being here.
SANDOR KATZ: Hi there, Debra. Thanks so much for having me on your show.
DEBRA: Well, tell us first, how did you get interested in fermentation? I mean, I consider you to be like the leader of fermented foods in the world.
SANDOR KATZ: Well, thank you.
DEBRA: You’re welcome. So I know being one of the leaders – well, I can actually call myself the leader of toxic-free products in the world because when I first started 30 years ago, nobody was writing about this or talking about it or thinking about it. I think that maybe you were in that position too of how did you, in a world where people aren’t talking about fermented foods, get to be interested in it?
SANDOR KATZ: Well, there were few stages of the development of my interest in it. I would say that really this isn’t a world where nobody was talking about fermented foods because probably everybody listening to this eats and drinks products of fermentation every day and they’re so thoroughly integrated into our food practices that we’ve just all eaten fermented foods for our whole lives whether we’ve been talking about it or not.
DEBRA: Oh, whether we’re aware of it or not.
SANDOR KATZ: Cheese is fermented, cured meats are fermented, condiments involve fermentation, coffee is fermented, chocolate is fermented, beer and wine are fermented. I mean, nobody really goes through their life (or really, not even their day) without encountering products of fermentation. But the question is one of awareness and practicing it.
SANDOR KATZ: All aspects of food production, fermentation largely started disappearing from people’s home kitchens and communities increasingly over the course of the 20th century and it just got concentrated to basically factories and centralized production.
And at the same time as this was happening, we developed this amazing fear of bacteria.
SANDOR KATZ: And so people began to project all of these fear on the process of fermentation. So not only was it not being done around them, but then they began to imagine that it’s something that’s really dangerous than technically demanding.
I got interested in there phases. First of all, in my youth, growing up in New York City, I loved sour pickles. It was just a favorite food of mine. Those are basically cucumbers fermented with garlic, dill and salt and nothing else. The acid is not acidic acid, the vinegar acid, but rather lactic acid that develops through fermentation. I’ve just always had been drawn to that flavor.
Nobody in my family was making it. We were able to buy in local delicatessens. We could buy beautiful pickles, but nobody in my family was making it.
Then in my twenties, I started just following a macrobiotic diet for a few years. And macrobiotic places a great emphasis on the digestive benefits of eating pickles and other kinds of live, cultured food.
And it was through macrobiotics that I first started thinking about the idea that there might be health benefits from the pickles that I grew up with and other kinds of live ferment and I started noticing that when I eat these foods (or really even if I just smell them), I could feel the salivary glands under my tongues squirting out saliva. And so I just started noticing in a really tangible way how these foods got my digestive juices flowing.
But what really got me making my own ferment was 21 years ago, I moved from New York City to rural Tennessee and I started keeping a garden. And that first season of gardening, I realized for the first time that in a garden, all of the cabbages are ready at the same time, all of the radishes are ready at the same time.
And so, just as a practical matter, what do I do with these cabbage, what do I do with these radishes? I learned how to ferment vegetables. I learned from the joy of cooking. It’s really a very, very straightforward and simple process.
And then from sauerkraut, I moved into yoghurt, making country wines out of blackberries and elderberries and such. And then, at some point, I just became sort of obsessed with all things fermented. That led me into teaching. That led me into writing books. And then that led me to more teaching. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since then.
It’s not only in the western diet. I mean, really, people in every part of the world incorporate fermentation into their food traditions. There’s a certain inevitability to microbial change to our food. And so our ancestors, without specifically knowing about bacteria or fungi, learned to work with these invisible life forces that are part of our food.
Basically, we all see microorganisms spoil our food and the beginnings of decomposition. So just as a practical matter to avoid that, people had to learn under what kind of storage condition would the food become more stable, more digestible, more delicious rather than just decomposing into an ugly mess that nobody will ever want to put into their mouth.
DEBRA: And you did that perfectly. We’re going right to the break. We’ll be right back to talk more about fermentation. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and my guest today is Sandor Katz. He’s the author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. His website is wildfermentation.com. We’ll be right back.
= COMMERCIAL BREAK =
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is fermentation revivalist, Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. His website is wildfermentation.com.
So Sandor, I have to tell you that I really do love, love, love Wild Fermentation, the book. People who have been listening to me for a while and reading me a while know that I have certain ways of looking at the world and you agree with me so much.
So I want to just read a little portion that I’ve put a big – I’ve circled this and put stars around it in the book. So you say:
“By fermenting foods and drinks with wild microorganisms present in your home environment, you become more interconnected with the life forces of the world around you. Your environment becomes you as you invite the microbial populations you share the earth with to enter your diet and your intestinal ecology.”
We’ve been talking about a book called Missing Microbes I think it’s called. I had that author of that book on. He was talking about how because of toxic chemical exposures like antimicrobials and antibiotics that we’re losing our microorganisms, particularly in our gut. Fermentation, wild fermentation specifically is restoring those microorganisms that are in your own natural environment that you live in as opposed to buying a probiotic that is made in a laboratory and put in a capsule.
SANDOR KATZ: Well, from my persective, the limiting factor with most probiotics is that they are billions of copies of one, single kind of bacteria or maybe two or three. But really, what I think of as our objective in probiotics therapy, eating bacterially rich foods is restoring biodiversity, rebuilding biodiversity.
SANDOR KATZ: And so, traditional fermented foods, which are the embodiments of these broad communities of these bacteria simply have greater biodiversity than capsules with a billion copies of the same cell.
DEBRA: Right, right. It’s like probiotics in a capsule. I’m not trying to say that they’re a bad thing. They’re better than not having probiotics.
SANDOR KATZ: Yeah, I agree with that.
DEBRA: But probiotics in a capsule is like the industrial version of the natural world where industrial products tend to be all exactly the same and the natural world tends to be diverse.
SANDOR KATZ: Yeah, yeah. It’s a monoculture.
DEBRA: Right! It’s a monoculture. That’s exactly right. So probiotics is a good step away from just eating processed foods with no biotics at all. But the next step then is to be making your own fermented foods at home.
SANDOR KATZ: Yeah, or honestly, you can also buy foods that has been fermented. I think that the best thing to do is ferment your own, but there really are some very quality, local brands of fermented vegetables, fermented dairy products. It’s possible to get good quality, naturally fermented foods without making them yourself. But they’ll always be better if you make them yourself.
DEBRA: Well, I have to tell you that after reading your book, the first thing I made was pickles.
SANDOR KATZ: And were you happy with how they turned out?
DEBRA: I was ecstatic with how they turned out.
SANDOR KATZ: Oh, good.
DEBRA: I can’t hardly wait for summer to arrive, so that I can make the pickles. Let me just say that these are so easy to make. Anybody can make pickles. And if you can still get those little cucumbers at your farmer’s market or the store or wherever that are like pickle-sized cucumbers instead of huge cucumbers, then all you need to do is – well, you can correct me. I’m sure I’m not giving all the steps, but it’s pretty much as simple as putting the pickles in a jar with dill and garlic and water and salt. They sit there in the jar and three or four days later, you’ve got the most beautiful pickles you’ve ever eaten.
What did I leave out?
SANDOR KATZ: No, no. You got it perfectly. Yeah, in cooler weather (depending on where you live), it might take longer than that. In hot summer weather, it would probably really just be three, four, five days. But in cooler weather or in a cellar or something like that, it will take longer. The amount of time fermentation takes always depends upon the temperature. The metabolism of all these organisms goes faster when it’s warmer.
And you can really use the same method with other kinds of vegetables. I love to do it with string beans, with okra, with baby eggplants, with peppers. So if you want to leave vegetables whole or in big chunks, then you put them in a salt water medium. If you want to cut up the vegetables and expose surface area, then you don’t need to add any water and then you just dry salt the vegetables and let the salt pour water out.
SANDOR KATZ: So that’s what I would call the sauerkraut method. You don’t add any water. You’re just using salt and a little bit of pounding or squeezing to get the juice out of the vegetables.
And the advantage of the dry salting method is you’re not diluting the flavor at all with water. You’re just getting the concentrated, full flavor of the vegetables themselves enhanced by the flavor of lactic acid, which develops over the course of the process.
Some people like it fermented for a long time, so they get a really strong, acidic flavor. Some people prefer a milder flavor and let it just ferment for a few days.
One of the things about fermentation is that there really are no right or wrong answers. It’s just figuring out how you like it.
And when people make these things for the first time at home, I definitely recommend that they start tasting it after a few days. Just taste it at intervals of every two days and just get a sense of the spectrum of flavors and figure out where they fit along that spectrum. And of course, that’s one of the great advantages of making anything yourself. You can figure out how you like it.
DEBRA: Absolutely! I remember when I was a kid, I’d come from a family where my mother was completely 100% Armenian. And so my grandparents on that side still cooked Armenian food and spoke Armenian and everything. And so, once we made Armenian pickles right out of the Armenian cookbook. We had to cut them all up and buy a crock to put them in and store them in the darkness and all the stuff. We had to wait a long time for these pickles.
But it was fun! It was fun. I should take that up. Of course, I don’t have a crock anymore, but I could get a crock and pick up that recipe and try those pickles too.
We need to go to break. But when we come back, we’ll continue to talk about fermented foods. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and my guest is Sandor Katz, author of the book, Wild Fermentation. His website is wildfermentation.com. We’ll be right back.
= COMMERCIAL BREAK =
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is fermentation revivalist, Sandor Katz. I love that ‘fermentation revivalist’ because he is reviving fermentation.
My field is really about going beyond industrialism and getting away from those toxic chemicals. The way we get away from toxic chemical is to do these old things, these old life-affirming things that people have been doing forever. This is just like a toxic-free thing to do.
So it’s great that you’re reviving it. They’re everything from the past that works like those and is part of connecting humans to nature and utilizing the natural processing, bringing is back to that connection. It deserves to be revived. I’m just 100% with you.
So there’s so much information in this book. I just, again, really encourage everybody to read it. One of the things that you talk about is cultural homogenization, how everything becomes standardized and uniform and how fermentation is just the opposite of that. Could you just tell us a little bit more about that?
SANDOR KATZ: Well, sure. I mean, certainly, fermentation takes place in giant factories also. Anheuser-Busch is a fermentation corporation. Kraft does all kinds of fermentation.
So it’s not that fermentation cannot be industrialized because it certainly has. The nature of fermentation historically has just always been like every batch is a little different. And if you ever talk to a baker, they’ll tell you all about the reality – the humidity that change every day, the temperature. All these things affect the process of baking bread, so they have to be very adaptable.
You talk to cheese makers and they’ll tell you, “Sure. Every batch is a little bit different. And sometimes we understand exactly why and sometimes we don’t.” Making sauerkraut, making kombucha, all of these things, there’s so many variables.
Ultimately, it gets down to microbial communities. Microbial communities can be different in different places. There are generally broad patterns of similarity. It’s not a question of Russian roulette, what kind of bacteria are going to be on these vegetables.
As a matter of fact, lactic acid bacteria as a group are universally found on plants. The starter for vegetable ferment is always there, but yet the specifics of the community organisms that are going to be present is always a little bit different.
The environmental factors, which have so much influence over which of those organisms can grow and at what rate can they grow, those are always a little bit different.
So we’re really just entering into the realm of fermentation. Is departing from the world of things being very, very controlled and accepting a little bit of variability? It requires you to observe and sometimes shift your expectations as things proceed. You can’t necessarily predict what the temperature is going to be and the way these things will proceed at.
For me, I think that the practice of fermentation is almost like a meditation in like, “Okay, you can’t control everything.” You want to set things up as best you can for success, try to understand the conditions that you’re trying to create and then accept that you can’t control everything and see how it goes and keep on looking and thinking and adapting as necessary.
DEBRA: And being delighted with the surprising results!
SANDOR KATZ: Yeah! Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
DEBRA: So tell us, there’s so many things that you have in the book about that can be fermented vegetables [inaudible 00:31:18]. Just give us a little overview so that people can get an idea of the vast scope of fermentation.
SANDOR KATZ: Well, there’s nothing that you could eat that you couldn’t ferment. We shouldn’t say that every single food has a tradition of fermentation. For instance, I’ve never seen any information about a historical fermentation of avocados. It doesn’t mean that you couldn’t put avocados into your sauerkraut or your kimchi or that you couldn’t make a fermented guacamole because I’ve done all of those things with really pleasing results. But anything you can eat can be fermented.
So I always recommend that people start with the fermentation of vegetables mostly because you don’t need any special starter cultures. You could make kefir or you could make yoghurt. There’s lots of things you could make that you would need to find a starter culture. But with fermenting vegetables, everything you need is on the vegetables already.
It’s also just absolutely intrinsically safe. According to the USDA, there has never been a single documented case of food poisoning or any kind of illness arising from fermenting vegetables. So I think that’s another great reason to recommend it to beginners.
You don’t need any special equipments. I mean, you certainly might decide that you would like an elegant crock to work with, but you can just work with a jar that’s already sitting in your pantry. And you can enjoy your results relatively quickly. Certain ferments like if you want to make a miso, most varieties of miso will age for a year or longer. Certain ferments just take a long time. But fermenting vegetables, you can really enjoy your results within days.
So fermenting vegetables is where I generally recommend that people start. Obviously, milk products are something that people ferment. You can make yoghurt, kefir, other styles of fermented milk, cheese if you really got into it. Many of those recipes actually are quite straightforward as well. The only tricky part is you need to obtain your starter cultures.
You also can ferment grains.
SANDOR KATZ: In many parts of the world, it’s just the tradition of using grains is you always soak them in water first. Now, grains and legumes are interesting because nobody is fermenting them to preserve them. In their dried form (the way they are when they’re mature), a dried grain of wheat or of rice just preserves beautifully; same with a dried bean.
It’s not that they don’t have microorganisms on them. It’s just that they’re so dry that the microorganisms are forced into dormancy because they like the water that they need to function. So as soon as you start to soak grains or legumes, you’re kind of initiating a fermentation process.
There really begins a process that I would describe as predigestion and can make the grains and the legumes much more digestible, remove some compounds that can be potentially toxic if they remain part of them. And that can be just as simple as soaking the grain overnight before you cook them or longer if you want a more pronounced flavor.
DEBRA: I have to interrupt you because we have to go to break. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and my guest today is Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and we’ll be right back.
= COMMERCIAL BREAK =
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is fermentation revivalist, Sandor Katz. He’s the author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. His website is wildfermentation.com.
So Sandor, this is the last segment of the show so I have to ask you this now before we’re done and we don’t have time to talk about it. I have some limited experience with fermentation. While I think it is an incredible thing to do and every fermented food I’ve ever eaten, I love, it’s something that I haven’t quite gotten the hang of to be able to incorporate it into my life. I’m still learning it.
And so the kinds of things that I’m running into – first, let me tell you what I’ve made and the problems that I’ve had. I have no problems making pickles. Pickles, all I have to do is make sure I have the ingredients, put them in a jar and that’s it. They’re always perfect.
And I should add that once you get it, as Sandor said earlier, that you should taste. And once you get it to the point where it tastes right, you just put it on the refrigerator and it lasts and lasts and lasts and lasts. A lot of other food in your refrigerator may go bad, but the fermented ones, I’ve never kept a fermented one long enough for it to go bad.
I’ve also fermented beets by pretty much the same way. I’m just putting it in with some water…
SANDOR KATZ: Okay, so were you making a beet kvass?
DEBRA: I wasn’t trying to make kvass. I was making just pickled beets.
SANDOR KATZ: Okay, great.
DEBRA: So I cut up the beets. I put in some water and salt (same as the pickles) and they were delicious.
SANDOR KATZ: Great.
DEBRA: Absolutely delicious! I’ve also done kombucha. The problem that I have with kombucha is that it’s just kind of keeping track of the schedule of time because as you’ve said before, you never know what’s going to happen.
And so I have my kombucha starter. And so then I knew – I forgot how many days it is now, five days or something. And then it starts getting really vinegary, like you can’t even drink it.
The whole thing about kombucha, listeners (if you don’t know what this is) is that it makes a very wonderful drink that tastes delicious if you catch it right at the right time and it gets bubbly. It’s almost like drinking champagne or something, but it’s very good. It’s very good.
And yet if you let it go too long, then you just might as well put on your salad as vinegar. It’s not something that’s drinkable.
SANDOR KATZ: Yes.
DEBRA: It’s just that discipline you were talking about, fermenting being like a meditation. To me, it’s like getting the discipline in to be able to interact with your fermentation and get to know it and be able to give it attention because if you take that attention away, that’s when you have a problem.
SANDOR KATZ: Yeah. Well, it sounds like you know the answer, which is just that you have to begin tasting it sooner. I would give it a few days and then just start tasting it every day. Just a tiny taste, a spoonful will tell you whether it’s reached that point.
The acids that accumulate over time (same in pickles or sauerkraut as in kombucha), if you let sauerkraut go for months – I mean, that’s really the traditional way of eating it. It’s very, very sour. Some people prefer it more mild. But with kombucha, nobody really likes it when it goes to its logical conclusion. If you let it ferment for weeks and weeks, it starts to taste like vinegar. So people like it partially fermented.
And so how many days will depend a little bit on temperature because it’ll happen faster if it’s warmer, slower if it’s cooler. But ultimately, it just depends on how sharp a flavor you like, how sweet you like. And so the only way to determine that is to taste it frequently.
And you know, your consolation prize is not so bad. If you end up with some kombucha vinegar, then you can use that in salad dressings and other kinds of cooking project.
DEBRA: I find that it was – I’m just one person living by myself. I was making it faster than I could consume it.
SANDOR KATZ: Right. Well, you can make anything in any sized batch. I don’t know if you were doing a gallon-sized batch, but maybe you just need to do a quart-sized batch. But yeah, you can do it really small.
Let me talk a little bit SCOBY and the mother of kombucha. So the mother of kombucha as an example is a SCOBY, which is an acronym that stands for ‘symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast’. This is like a macro thing that we can see and hold. It looks something like a rubbery pancake. The residents of a community of bacteria and fungi that are what are fermenting the sweet tea into kombucha and it just floats at the top of your vessel.
Kombucha requires oxygen. Some of those organisms are aerobic organisms that require oxygen so a certain amount of the activity is right on the surface. That’s where the mother of kombucha floats.
But you could just peel layers off of it each batch. It gets thicker and thicker. You could peel layers off of it. You can cut pieces off of it. It’s very, very resilient. Some people have the idea that if you cut a kombucha mother in half or in quarters, you’ll kill it. That has not been my experience at all. They seem like they’re extremely resilient.
And they’re also easy to find. Everybody who makes kombucha ends up with more mothers than they know what to do with and people are very, very generous with their kombucha mothers. They’re also widely available for sale if you’re more comfortable buying them.
Kombucha can be really delicious. And generally, after the first fermentation, people will add a little bit more sugar or fruit juice or vegetable juice or herbal tea with a little bit of sugar, something and then fill it in a bottle and let that added sugar ferment for another day or so. That’s how you get that really nice carbonation. That’s also a way to just incorporate different kinds of interesting flavors.
A friend of mine swears by pineapple juice. He just likes to add a little bit of pineapple juice to the kombucha for the secondary fermentation. He consistently has beautiful, fizzy kombucha.
DEBRA: Well, I have had really good success with kombucha. For me, it’s just that as a regular, I’m working on having more control over my own production of food instead of – and I buy practically no prepared food. I’m always starting with original ingredients. But it’s a skill and it’s also not just about learning the skill of producing one more time at a time or one dish at a time, but also the management of time of all of these production.
SANDOR KATZ: I’m a big advocate of labeling using masking tape and a marker, labeling the date that you started things, the date that you think that they’ll be ready especially if you’re wont to have multiple projects going just having the information at hand to keep track of how old it is. You think when you make it that you’ll always remember which day you made it on, but as the days pass…
DEBRA: Oh no, you don’t. You don’t. I use post-it notes actually.
SANDOR KATZ: Great!
DEBRA: I have one of those beverage serving containers that’s got the little spigot on it.
SANDOR KATZ: Oh yeah, yeah. Those are great for kombucha.
DEBRA: Yeah! And I haven’t made kombucha in probably six months, but I have my SCOBY…
SANDOR KATZ: But with those, it won’t get very fizzy. It really gets fizzier if you seal it in a bottle and add a little bit more something sugary, fruit juice, sweetened herbal tea, sugar, honey, anything. Just adding a little bit of something sugary in the bottle and then sealing the bottle is how you trap carbon dioxide. Although you also have to be careful that the bottles don’t explode, which is another possibility that I address more at length in my second book, The Art of Fermentation.
DEBRA: Well, we’re almost at the end of the show. We only just have a couple of minutes left. Is there anything that you’d like to say that we haven’t covered?
SANDOR KATZ: Well, I would love to just mention my website, which is wildfermentation.com. Not only are my books available to my website, but we have a support form, links to all kinds of fermentation-related resources.
I guess I’d love to spend 30 seconds and just talk about the idea that even though we’ve all been indoctrinated to think of bacteria as bad and dangerous, right now, it’s a very exciting time in microbiology because we’re learning so much about bacteria and how important they are…
DEBRA: Yes, yes.
SANDOR KATZ: …and how the bacteria of our bodies outnumber our bodily cells 10 to 1 and they just give us so much of our functionality. Our immune system is mostly the work of bacteria. We’re learning a lot about how serotonin and other chemical compounds that determine how we think and how we feel are regulated by bacteria in our gut.
Just so many aspects of our physiology and functionality turns out relate to the health of microbial communities in our gut. So we really have to reject this war on bacteria thinking, the antibacterial soaps, the overuse of antibiotics, all the other chemical compounds that can kill bacteria and really embrace bacteria as just an important part of the matrix of all life, ourselves included.
DEBRA: I completely agree with that. I was just talking to a friend of mine last night about the yuck factor, that there are so many things that people just go, “Eww, that’s gross.” I think that bacteria is one of those things. We kind of have this cultural training about this. But yet, if you actually look at the role that microorganisms play in life, they’re fascinating and wonderful and amazing and something that we should all be admiring and encouraging. We should have more bacteria in our life, not less.
SANDOR KATZ: Yes.
DEBRA: And yet we live in a culture where just the constant messages, “Destroy that bacteria. It makes you sick. You have to spray toxic chemicals on it” and all those things. No, no, no. Prior to industrialization, people were exposed to bacteria in the world all the time.
And yes, there are contagious diseases, but contagious diseases, you get contagious diseases because your body fails to be able to handle those harmful bacteria.
SANDOR KATZ: Yeah, it’s a lot about communities out of balance, microbial communities out of balance.
DEBRA: Right! You know what? We have to go because we’re like way past the time. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. We’ve been talking to Sandor Katz. Thanks for being with us. Be well.