Fermenting as a metaphor: “We need the bubbling transformative power of fermentation.”
Sandor Katz, one of the most knowledgeable, informative and readible fermenters of our day, has written a new book Fermentation as a metaphor. We highly recommend his other books, Wild Fermentation and the Art of Fermentation for some practical pickle advice but his new book describes the radical nature of fermentation and how it can contribute to resilience building: something we all need in the face of the terrible and terrifying impacts of climate change. This excerpt is from Chelsea Green publishing.
“Fermentation is extremely versatile as a metaphor. Inside our minds, frequently, ideas ferment as we think about them and imagine how they might play out. Feelings too can ferment, as we process them and they move through us. Sometimes this interior ferment transcends our individual experience and grows into a broader social process. In metaphor, as in the biological phenomenon, there is nothing that cannot be fermented. For decades now as a reader, ever since I began taking note of all things fermented, I have noticed in writing many varied metaphorical uses of the word ferment. “In the musical ferment of the late ’60s, influences were coming from every direction,” according to one article. “In the 1920s, Punjab was in religious ferment,” stated another. An artist’s obituary noted that he arrived in New York in 1955 and “was quickly swept up in the artistic ferment of the time.” The editor of a political journal was quoted in 2017 as saying, “It took a Trump, of all people, to allow for a certain level of intellectual ferment to take place.”Sandor Katz, Fermentation as a Metaphor. Buy the book here.
Certainly no particular ideology has a monopoly on fermentation. Intellectual, social, cultural, political, artistic, musical, religious, spiritual, sexual, and other forms of bubbly excitement are part of the range of human experience. In any realm of our lives, it is possible to get caught up in a feeling of shared effervescence. We should all be so lucky. Whatever the context, like its literal twin, metaphorical fermentation is an unstoppable force that people everywhere have harnessed, and gotten caught up in, in all sorts of different ways.
Fermentation can be driven by hopes, dreams, and desires; or by necessity, desperation, and anger; or by other forces altogether. Fermentation is always going on somewhere, though generally not everywhere. Sometimes in its absence it can seem elusive. But when metaphorical fermentation occurs, it often spreads, transforming what was into what’s next. Fermentation is no less than an engine of social change.