May 26, 2015 at 11:57 am

Bestselling Food Author Talks Fermentation with OHIO

Sandor Katz meets with Ohio University students and Athens fermenters.

Sandor Katz meets with Ohio University students and Athens fermenters.

By Rachel Komich ’17
How Food Works Intern

New York Times bestselling author and fermentation advocate Sandor Katz began his talk at Ohio University by asking if anyone had eaten anything fermented that day. In response to the limited number of hands raised, he listed less commonly known fermented items such as bread, coffee and chocolate.

Katz described how he became interested in fermentation and explained that by eating more fermenting food, people would reclaim taste and push off our plates what he calls “dead, anonymous, industrialized, genetically engineered, and chemicalized corporate food.”

Katz, who runs fermentation workshops across the globe, left ample time for questions at the April event, answering many about making kombucha and beer. The benefits and safety of fermented foods prompted much discussion. Many in the audience took notes as Katz recounted his adventures in fermentation. A reception and book-signing followed his talk, with local pickles and relishes also on hand. Avalanche Pizza fed the crowd with pizza topped with local cheese and fermented foods.

Katz spoke in Baker Theater to a packed crowd. The event was sponsored by the Food Studies theme, Food Matters Club, the Gluten-Free Alliance, as well as the Biological Sciences, Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Environmental & Plant Biology departments in the Ohio University College of Arts & Sciences.

The event, free to the public, gathered so much attention that people were forced to sit on the isle floors as they listened. Dr. Theresa Moran, faculty leader of the Food Studies curricular theme at Ohio University, welcomed the audience and College of Arts & Sciences Dean Bob Frank introduced the speaker, commenting how Katz, in his obvious appeal to the Athens community, was testimony to the interdisciplinary nature of Food Studies and the themes initiative in general. Food Matters Club President Anna Chlebone ’15 exclaimed that the “turnout was more than even hoped for in so many ways.”

Communing with Students and Local Fermenters

Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation, spent two days visiting campus, meeting with students and community members. At a dinner hosted by the Athens Fermentation Club, Katz spoke to the Food Studies theme foundational class. Food Matters, the Ohio University student club led by Chlebone and Janice Brewer ’15, invited students, faculty, and the Athens community to enjoy an afternoon with Katz at the West End Cider House. Local fermenters and people from Integration Acres and Snowville Creamery shared stories with Katz and introduced him to the rich fermenting culture of Athens County.

In class, Katz led the students of CAS 1410 Explorations in Food Across the Liberal Arts in a tasting a variety of fermented pickles and vegetables, explaining the transformational power bacteria can exercise over our food.

Not only was this event informative and educational, it was communal. Students, faculty and Athens residents all gathered together to learn and share an experience. Chlebone noted that events like these are incredibly important.

“It showed that the Food Studies Theme is filling a really important gap between the university and the community in a very tangible way,” said Chlebone, noting that she was glad “to see this academic program draw in this amount of university and community support and interest.”

Komich is an English major at Ohio University.

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