Michael Pollan – Leader of the Fermentation Underground or Fermentation God?

Here are a few excerpts from Michael Pollan’s new book “Cooked“.  These excerpts refer to the chapter on fermenting of vegetables but also have a great correlation with bokashi composting.  Take a look at the bottom for his amazing statement about fermentation!
“…As one of the primary processes by which nature breaks down living things so that their energies and atoms might be reused by other living things, fermentation puts us in touch with the ever present tug, in life, of death.
… And in fact some of the (fermentation) microbes that do this work for us, the bacilli and fungi, are denizens of the soil, on temporary loan to the above ground world.  They splash on to leaves, find their way into milk, drift onto seeds and flesh, but ultimately they are on a mission from the soil, venturing out into the macrocosm – the visible world of plants and animals we inhabit – to scavenge food for the microbial wilderness beneath our feet.
To ferment is to “boil”, people would say confidently (“to boil” is what the word “ferment” means), but they could not begin to say how the process started or why this particular boil wasn’t hot to the touch.  Most other kinds of cooking rely on outside energy – the application of heat, mainly – to transform foodstuffs; the laws of physics and chemistry rule the process, which operates on the only formerly alive.  (Patrick’s note:  Does this mean bokashi/fermentation is the equivalent of renewable energy?)
Fermentation is different.  In fermentation the laws of biology have primary jurisdiction and are required to explain how a ferment generates its own energy from within.  It not only seems alive, it is alive.  And most of this living takes place at a scale inaccessible to us without a microscope.  No wonder so many cultures have had their fermentation gods – how else to explain this cold fire that can cook so many marvelous things?
… Much more than a way to prepare and preserve food, fermentation for these people becomes a political and ecological act, a way to engage with the bacteria and fungi, honor our co-evolutionary interdependence, and get over our self-destructive germophobia.  It seems there’s a lot more going on in a crock of homemade sauerkraut than a handful of lactobacilli species diligently fermenting the sugars in a cabbage; at stake in that crock is our whole relationship to nature.

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