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Monday, September 18, 2023

Book Review: Fermentation as Metaphor by Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermentation as Metaphor by Sandor Ellix Katz
"Just as people can project irrational fear of bacteria upon fermentation, people can project any number of irrational fears of contamination by the other upon the race/nation/culture."
Sandor Ellix Katz is obsessed with fermentation. He experiments with it, he writes about it, he takes pictures of it, he teaches about it. In his book "Fermentation as Metaphor" he not only goes into some of the science of fermentation, but sees the act of fermentation in human society and culture.

As he states, and I'm paraphrasing, things don't change effectively by fire. That burns everything down. It takes a slow fermentation, a "bubbling up", to make cultural changes and form social behavior. Actual fermentation breaks down nutrients into more accessible forms. Metaphorical fermentation breaks down the old and creates the new. He connects this to politics, religious beliefs, general ideas, racism, climate change, overuse of sterilization in everyday life, and even the differing ideas of purity. And it's all done in an intricate, detailed way that keeps you reading and doesn't lose you at any point.

This isn't a woo-woo magic/spiritual book, it's based on science, but this might sound just like that to some: One part of this book that I really connected to was the idea of emotional composting. Where you can turn your negative emotions into creating positive ones. Rather than suppressing these terrible things, you embrace and accept them, you cry about them and let them out, and then you use them as motivation to turn it all around. That's what I did to get through something that hit me pretty hard a few years ago, and left me with some pretty effective trauma. I was able to ferment all of that into improving and getting away from it. I now have a term to use for how I got through it all.

With 50 beautiful photographs of fermentation taken using microscopes, this is a beautiful book in both its visuals and its words. It's 108 short pages (many of them photography) and you can finish it easily in one sitting. I highly recommend that you do so.
"Fermentation is a force that cannot be controlled, and the changes it renders are not always desirable."

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