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Eat Rotten, Live Well with Sandor Katz

An interview with Sandor Katz, the AIDS-surviving fermentation fetishist.

Kelly Bourdet

Kelly Bourdet

Strangely, there are ten times more bacterial cells than human cells within each of us, and many of these bacteria, busy regulating digestion and our immune systems, play a central role in keeping us alive. Meanwhile, antibacterial chemicals are more prevalent now than ever—they’re in the medicines we take, the soaps we use, the meat we eat, and the water we drink—and they don’t always discriminate between harmful and beneficial bacteria. In the face of this assault, fermented foods are an important means of replenishing the cultures that keep us healthy.

That’s the thinking that drives Sandor Ellix Katz, a self-described fermentation revivalist, author and food activist. He’s the author of Wild Fermentation, a guide to fermenting foods at home—including beer, wine, mead, miso, tempeh, sourdough bread, yogurt, cheese, and more exotic ones. He’s passionate about the health benefits of the live bacteria cultures these fermented foods contain.

I recently called Katz on the telephone to talk about everything from home fermentation, living with HIV, and the overuse of antibiotics in modern medicine.

What were some of your first experiences with fermented or cultured foods?

Well, my earliest experiences with fermented foods was just eating them as a kid. It had nothing to do with making them. Growing up in New York City, one of my favorite foods was sour pickles. And I’ve always just been drawn to that sour, lactic acid flavor before I even knew the word fermentation, before I even knew anything about fermentation or how to do it. I was just really drawn to this particular flavor. That’s really the earliest point of my interest in fermentation.

Read the full interview at Motherboard