I am excited to introduce you to one of Mark’s Daily Apple’s favorite authors. His name is Sandor Katz (you can call him Sandorkraut), and he is a self-proclaimed fermentation fetishist, herbalist and food activist. In just two books he has inspired us to try our hand at creating our very own savory seed sauerkraut, and to (further) challenge the practices and tactics of multinational food conglomerates.
Sandor Katz’s first book, Wild Fermentation, turned us on to this maverick. In it he provides readers with numerous, healthy fermentation recipes while uncovering the mysterious process of using fungi and bacteria to transform and preserve food – a method that has been used for thousands of years. (You’ve got to get this book for the ginger beer recipe alone!)
In Mr. Katz’s latest book he tackles a much broader and controversial topic. The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements is a thoroughly researched exposé on the miserable state of America’s food system and how it is affecting our society. His compelling and passionately delivered arguments will make you rethink why you are eating the foods you consume.
As he explains in the book, people rarely consider creating food for themselves anymore. We have been programmed to be consumers and not producers, so we sit back and let Big Food deliver tasteless and nutritionally inferior food items to our dinner tables.
This is to the detriment of our food, our health, and the environment, but to the benefit of Big Food’s bottom line. Our complacency and desire for cheap, convenient foods has resulted in an obesity-plagued and disease-ridden society with, seemingly, no end in sight.
As Sandor states, “Our food system, in which barely one percent of the people produce food for the other 99% to eat, is producing diseased people, diseased land, diseased animals, and diseased economies.”
Sandor doesn’t just deconstruct the system. In a conversational and inspirational tone he also gives hope and offers answers to the innumerable questions with which we are faced. With cold, hard facts and personal anecdotes The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved will encourage you to take charge of your food supply and your health.
If you would like to learn more about the food revolution, or are looking for alternatives to the corporate dominated food system in America, pick up this book, read his arguments, and make use of the countless resources and suggestions Sandor provides.
We recently had the opportunity to interview Sandor about fermentation, Big Food, and sustainability.
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few of our questions, Sandor.
It is my pleasure.
Let’s get down to business. Why fermented foods?
Fermented foods are delicious and nutritious. Their flavors are so compelling that almost all “gourmet” foods are the products of fermentation (cheeses, cured meats, olives, condiments, coffee, chocolate, bread, wine, beer, to name just a few popular ones). Nutrients are “pre-digested” by fermentation and become more bioavailable. Fermentation also generates additional nutrients not found in the foods prior to fermentation. And ferments eaten raw contain live-cultures which replenish bacterial populations in our bodies and enhance digestion and immunity.
Can’t we handle a little processed food?
It depends what you mean by “processed food.” All fermented foods are processed. They are examples of what are known as “value-added” foods. When you turn cabbage into sauerkraut, you add value to it. Similarly, milk is worth more when you turn it into cheese, grapes when you turn them into wine. Food processing is part of every human culture and culinary tradition. So processed foods are not intrinsically bad. However, in our time, food processing, like food production, has largely disappeared from our lives and into factories where they are hidden from view. And increasingly food processing has departed from the realm of the traditional or natural. Most processed foods now contain hydrogenated oils (trans fats), high-fructose corn syrup, and/or genetically-modified ingredients. Potato chips, sodas, and candy don’t leave you feeling well-nourished. My personal feeling is that most people can handle a small amount of junk food, but only if it is in the context of a mostly wholesome diet. The results of eating mostly junk we are seeing all around us, in rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases, and even more dramatically in demographic trends suggesting that average life expectancy in the U.S. is decreasing for the first time in our history.
What is wrong with Big Food?
At the present historical moment, every aspect of food production and distribution, from farming to retailing, is concentrated to an unprecedented scale. This makes big profits for corporate food processors, while disempowering small farmers, rural communities, and consumers. Of every dollar that we spend on food at a supermarket, only 19 cents goes to farmers. The rest goes into this huge infrastructure of food processing, distribution, and marketing. The factory style of monoculture farming that this scale breeds transforms farming into a noxious activity that drains resources and pollutes. And of course, the highly processed foods that this system produces are largely anti-nutritious. Big Food is destroying the earth, destroying our health, and destroying community food security and economic structure.
What can an average American do to help fix our broken food system?
First, get to know some farmers and buy food that they produce directly from them. And then, start gardening and thereby producing some of your own food, and some to share. In our culture, we learn to identify primarily as “consumers.” Well, it is not sustainable for us to just consume. We need to break out of this confining and infantilizing role and empower ourselves and one another to become producers as well. That helps create better food choices for everyone.
Do you buy meat and produce locally, or take joy in fermented foods? Share your stories with fellow readers!
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