Friday, March 20, 2020

Fermenting in the Time of Coronavirus

When I speak on the subject of fermentation and why it is important, I often talk about the Zombie Apocalypse. I don't  necessarily mean literal zombies eating your literal brains. The Zombie Apocalypse is an archetype of infrastructure collapse, representing unthinkable, unimaginable forces capable of interrupting our cozy routine, revealing the fault lines in our fragile post-industrial house of cards.

Welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse, 2020-style.

What does this have to do with fermentation?

Many of us take for granted our ability to go to the supermarket, buy almost anything we want, then bring it home and preserve it in the big white rectangular electric food preserving device called "refrigerator". (Credit to Sandor Katz for this characterization.)

What if some links went missing from this chain? What if, all of a sudden, we needed some other way to preserve our food?

Canning is the olde tyme food preserving poster child, yet it's relatively high-tech and resource-intensive. There are older techniques that don't require airtight lids and large amounts of fuel: drying, salting, and curing. And fermenting.

What would you do if you got several pounds of vegetables, and didn't know when you'd see more? Even in the rectangle, a month is a long time for fresh vegetables. But after a month at room temperature, fermented vegetables and fruit are just starting to get interesting.

For many of us, infrastructure instability has always been something that happened "somewhere else". Maybe somewhere far away—Syria, Iraq, Bangladesh. Maybe closer to home—Puerto Rico, New Orleans, Florida.

Coming to a city near you?

Let's hope this is just a dry run.

Either way, I'd suggest that you find a sharp knife, a cutting board, a big pile of salt, and some mason jars. Get them from a local store if you can, or on the Internet if you must.

And stay tuned for another post, with more specific recommendations, soon.


Ash said...

Thanks for this reminder. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I dallied in fermenting, homesteading, zero-waste, etc. Now that my daughter is in school (well, out at the moment, feels like homeschooling all over again) and I'm at work (furloughed, currently), I don't have the "time" to work on that lifestyle. Well, now it's time to call in the reserves, those seeds that were planted a few years ago. Maybe I can coax them into growing and being useful.

Alex Lewin said...

Ash, thanks for posting here. I'm so glad that you were inspired to action. Would love to hear about how the seeds work out, or any other projects that you undertake.