The Queue: Sandor Katz

The Queue: Sandor Katz

Discover what individuals from our craft community are into right now.

Published on Sunday, June 28, 2020.
Sandor Katz sitting in a garden

↑ Fermentation educator and author Sandor Katz is one of three artisanal food craftspeople featured in "From Passion to Plate" in the Kitchen Table issue of American Craft.
Photo: Courtesy of Sandor Katz

The Queue: Kitchen Table Series

A weekly roundup for and by the craft community, the Kitchen Table series of The Queue introduces you to the makers, writers, curators, and more featured in the most recent issue of American Craft. We invite them to share their shortlist of exciting projects, people to follow, and content to consume to help you stay dialed into what's hot in the world of making.

Sandor Katz on the craft of food and new fermentation experiments

Featured in "From Passion to Plate" in the June/July 2020 issue of American Craft, Sandor Katz is an author and educator, and is regarded as a guru of all things fermentation. @sandorkraut

How would you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
I call myself a fermentation revivalist. I have experimented widely in the realm of fermentation, taught hundreds of workshops all around the world, and written two books on the subject: Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. For more information, check out my website, wildfermentation.com.

Cover of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz Cover of The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz

How are you staying healthy and finding balance during the COVID-19 breakout, both personally and professionally?
I feel incredibly lucky to live in a remote rural area. I’ve been spending lots of time outdoors. My garden is the nicest it’s been in many years, since I’ve had lots of time to garden. And I’ve been walking and running a lot. I’ve been participating in some great online events, but I have not been traveling at all (which I usually do often). I’ve only been teaching online a very little bit, so I’ve been using this time to write. I’ve finished a book, Fermentation as Metaphor, that’s an essay accompanied by gorgeous microscopy, and I’ve just started working on a book about my travels.

Carboys of fermenting mead

What are your thoughts on the relationship between craft and food?
Everything about food involves craft and technique, from growing it to harvesting it and storing it correctly, to milling, sprouting, fermenting, cooking, and all the other processes that transform the raw products of agriculture into all the things we love to eat and drink. Because so much food production is now centralized, most of us have no concept of the amount of craft that goes into it. My work empowering people with fermentation skills is motivated by my desire to see more people get their hands into food crafting.

Diverse hands mixing cabbage in a large bowl

Sandor's profile in the Kitchen Table issue explores fermentation as a craft that brings people together.
Photos: Courtesy of Sandor Katz

Witchetty Grub Dreaming by Jennifer Napaljarri Lewis and the Warlukurlangu Artists of Yuendumu

↑ From "Stories and Structures:" Witchetty Grub Dreaming by Jennifer Napaljarri Lewis, Warlukurlangu Artists of Yuendumu

What’s an exhibition or art project you think the world should know about?
I’ve been struck by similarities between the stunningly beautiful details of the microscopic world revealed by microscopy and some of the patterning used in different indigenous art traditions. The exhibition "Stories and Structures," organized by Microscopy Australia and available online, explores these parallels by pairing Australian indigenous artworks with microscopy images.

Cover of Koji Alchemy by Rich Shih and Jeremy Umansky

What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now?
There is a growing literature of fermentation. Some of it is fairly repetitive, but some of it is truly groundbreaking. For anyone interested in koji, I highly recommend Koji Alchemy by Jeremy Umansky and Rich Shih. They have developed and documented a wide range of innovative koji applications, sure to inspire even more experimentation. Pascal Baudar also thinks outside the box. He is a Los Angeles-area urban wildcrafter who has documented how to not only eat abundant weeds, invasives, and forest plants, but how to ferment them and use them as starters.

What research or writing are you doing, or seeing others do, that's piqued your interest?
I’m using the time I have at home due to canceled classes and events to write a new book. It’s a fermentation travelogue, featuring interesting fermented foods that I have encountered in my travels around the world, along with recipes, descriptions of processes, stories, people, and lots of photos. It’s fun revisiting some of the amazing places I’ve been, and I look forward to sharing this with people.

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