Hello there! Thanks for checking out my adventures in fermentation.
What’s this about?
I love food blogs and probably spend more time than I should perusing them. I also love experimenting with new flavors and techniques in the kitchen. But every time I toyed with the idea of starting a blog of my own, I was immediately stymied by an intense feeling of inadequacy. They all look so perfect. Everyone in them has a clutter free kitchen with exquisite lighting and seems to publish fool proof, iron-clad recipes that require an assistant, a test kitchen, and an army of eaters to sample the results.
I turn to these lovely, soft-lit pages for inspiration. In reality I don’t
have this kind of life and I don’t think I can pretend to. So here is my imperfect blog. I’m learning about fermenting as I go, and will probably mess things up from time to time. I hope to learn as much from an occasional batch of moldy vegetables as from a bottle of balanced and well-hopped beer.
Why the focus on fermentation?
I want to make this year about exploring uncertainty, really leaning into the idea that I am a small part of the world, and need to learn better how to work with it. Fermentation has always intrigued me – a mysterious, alchemical bit of magic that allows us to preserve our food and our connection to our ingenious ancestors. I’ve dabbled a bit, brewing beer on and off (and geeking out over it) for about three years, but had never ventured through the door to fermented foods.
I recently picked up Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation in a sweet little Vermont book store, and spent a long train ride home reading it nearly cover to cover. His approach is so encouraging. Relax. People have been doing this thousands of years and not dying! In fact, it has long been a way to make food safe in a less sterilized, less refrigerated world. I ventured into the tunnels of Penn Station feeling empowered. This would be the year I learned to ferment without fear – kimchi, miso, sake, it all seemed within reach.
The early-late-thirties are the worst. I pretty much think this about whatever age bracket I happen to fall into. But now, at the front-end of my late-thirties, the mountain of uncertainty about where I am, who I am, and what it is that I’m going to do has grown
so high that I’m having a hard time seeing a path to climb to the other side.
I spent the last decade pursuing a career as an intellectual property lawyer, sticking my cleats firmly into each tiny protruding ledge and grip on that climbing wall – associate at a prestigious law firm, in-house counsel at a large media, news and financial information company in New York, then in-house at one of the largest tech companies in the world. I moved to Europe for that last job, trying to leave behind a broken heart and a soul that had been ground down by trying to keep pace with life in New York.
Then I fell in love, quite my job, and moved back to New York. And finally, I looked up and wondered, what have I been doing with my life this whole time? I invented a lot of justifications at the time, but I went to law school like so many over-educated, jack-of-all trade recent college grads because I didn’t know what to do next and hadn’t really taken the time to investigate what I loved or wanted to do. And, you can do anything with a law degree! Note to potential law students – that’s a gross exaggeration. I thrived at law school, intellectually engaged in learning the intricacies of an entirely new world and so grateful to be able to put my head down and have some milestones for success that everyone seemed to agree on. I did the same thing at my law firm, working 16-18 hour days, 6-7 days a week, trying not to pay attention to the fact that I needed to shut the door to my office at least twice a week so that no one would see me sobbing.
I think I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years, maybe even my whole life, ignoring who I am and what I want – never even bothering to figure it out, really. I don’t know if it’s too late to start this journey now, but I have to believe it is not. When I don’t believe that, I also don’t see the point of getting out from under the covers in the morning.
And that’s where this fermentation experimentation comes in. Fermentation is wild. It’s inherently part of where you are, what’s in the air,water and soil. It forces participation in your surroundings, attention to the moment and response to the ongoing chemical and biological changes manifesting before your very eyes. I’ve spent a long time shoving my own instincts, wants, desires into a box and ignoring them to focus on trying to EXCEL at as many things as possible. Now, I want to pay attention. I hope that observing and nurturing the ways of the little bugs that have helped us survive and thrive for so many generations and learning how to create a mutually beneficial environment might be a first step in training myself to do so.