To ferment your own food is to lodge a small but eloquent protest – on behalf of the senses and the microbes – against the homogenization of flavors and food experiences now rolling like a great, undifferentiated lawn across the globe. It is also a declaration of independence from an economy that would much prefer we remain passive consumers of its standardized commodities, rather than creators of idiosyncratic products expressive of ourselves and of the places where we live, because your pale ale or sourdough bread or kimchi is going to taste nothing like mine or anyone else’s.
– Michael Pollen, Cooked (p415)
I have become quite political about cabbage. Mostly salted cabbage, packed into a jar and left on the bench for a few weeks. The process is the beginning of the breakdown into rot, the vegetable’s return to humus, and this process is so creative. B vitamins are made, anti-nutrients made benign, bacterial communities thrive and are overtaken in cultural successions. Like an invisible forest, species establish themselves and lay the foundations for the next.
In my fractal universe, the war we have been waging in the microcosmos (antibiotics everywhere) is symptomatic of our inability to just get along. My political path has taken me from dancing in the streets to permaculture gardening to the consumption of cultures as an act of reintegration, rebellion against the industrial processes that want to dominate my life.
Everything is everywhere. So says Sister Noella, mistress maker of cheese. All the bacteria are available to us, it’s a matter of environment. Terroir. The sourdough starter I am making on top of my fridge is the sourdough starter of my home, and the particular bacterial ecology I create is my specific relationship to my environment. Acting local.
If we count the cells in our bodies, the vast majority of them are not human. We are hybrid creatures, in symbiotic relationship with microscopic organisms. These organisms have an intelligence and skill in managing our relationship with our living environment that we have been underestimating lately. It seems that biodiversity is the key to the health of any environment, at every scale.