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  • Writer's picturestumclellan

Sauerkraut and the soul

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

Tonight I felt a bit lost and sad. Even though there is a lot to be grateful for. Feeling the toll of a world often afraid and battling and in need of a huge amount of care. And in a microcosm, feeling that for me too. I felt an invitation rise out of the quiet grief, unexpectedly - to put my hands and heart to work, and, as crazy as it sounds, start making sauerkraut. I've made it before a couple of times - cabbage and leek and carrot and garlic and onion and turmeric and chilli - and neglected it for a long time on a shelf in the kitchen, letting it ripen beyond ripe, until the top layer of sauerkraut needed careful removal, and I was almost afraid to take the lid off. And then finding that it was astonishingly good underneath, pungent, fiery and delicious. Eating it has a dimension of alchemy unlike any other food I've ever eaten, a slight feeling of trepidation but also a slow and unexpected pleasure in connecting to ancient methods of food preservation which sustained our ancestors.

In the dedication to the new edition of Wild Fermentation, Sandor Katz expresses gratitude to his friend Jon Greenberg, who 'first articulated to (Katz) the idea of peaceful coexistence with microbes, instead of warfare.' Something about this drew me in tonight, the invitation to participate, into the slow preparation of vegetables, chopping cabbages, grating onion and carrot and beetroot, appreciating their colour; salting everything lightly with sea salt and watching it draw liquid out; mindfully squeezing the juice from the vegetetables by hand, adding turmeric and chilli, jarring them with a folded cabbage leaf on top and weighted down with a stone from the sea to keep it submerged. Beginning this journey with food from the earth, a community of beneficial bacteria, slowly ripening into something strange and almost otherworldly, but at the same time COMPLETELY of this world - simple, and elemental, and sacramental. Joining in the hoop of life, taking my place alongside microbes and plants and fungi and pollinators and beetles and birds and earth and ancestors in community, in interdependence. Taking their hands (or equivalent), feeling their welcome and their company. And then waiting. Breathing, Together.

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