The word “culture” is used for both the specific microorganisms that ferment food as well as the phenomena transmitted through social learning in human societies. Sandor Katz, fermentation revivalist and bestselling author of The Art of Fermentation, thinks both are inexorably linked. In other words, you can’t have culture without, well, cultures.
Katz first came to Sterling College in March of 2013, when he kicked off the Vermont’s Table Speaker series. There, he gave a philosophical exploration of fermentation, and noted that it is practiced by every culture on Earth.
He also bemoaned the current phobia of bacteria in Western society. “Coexistence,” he said, “is imperative.” He notes that in the many workshops and lectures he gives about fermentation, inevitably people ask about getting the wrong kinds of bacteria in their foods.
“The number of reported fatalities from eating fermented vegetables, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is exactly zero,” Katz said.
Katz, who the New York Times has dubbed “one of the unlikely rock stars of the American food scene,” then came to Sterling College to teach a two-week course in the summer of 2014, and this year he is back as an instructor for the School of the New American Farmstead. As part of his course, students will not only learn to make vegetable and grain fermentations, they will also connect with traditional foodways across a range of cultures.
Students will leave with both practical skills and inspiration. Burlington chef Ren Weiner became enamored of making pickles during her class with Katz in 2014. She now has a mobile pickling unit that she’ll use to help farmers preserve and add value to their harvests.
Katz said, “Sterling is situated in an environment rich in local food production, and thereby rich in education stimulation.”
“The Art of Fermentation” with Sandor Katz runs from August 1-12. For more information and to register, visit https://www.sterlingcollege.edu/course/the-art-of-fermentation/.