good things fermenting in eugene

Sandor Katz!  I was so delighted to host him here at the University of Oregon.  He gave a great introduction to fermentation to students in the Clark Honors College library (with a sauerkraut demo), then spoke to a huge crowd on Friday evening, November 16, on fermentation through the related lenses of culture, co-evolution, and community.

The student event was packed with 30 people, who were treated to samples of fermented vegetables, sourdough bread, and cookies made by the PNW Local Food Honor College CHIP freshman interest group led by the dynamic Paul Metzler.  One grad student even brought a jar of sauerkraut for Sandor to sign.

It was a model event, complete with a charming speaker and an appreciative audience.  I could feel the love emanating throughout the 400 or so people in attendance at the big lecture.  400 people!  We nearly filled Columbia 150, the biggest classroom on campus.  It was really one of the highlights of my career, and I was honored to make it happen.

We had a slight glitch with the books available at the event.  Everything was ok with Sandor’s new book, The Art of Fermentation, but the cool little ‘zine version of Wild Fermentation, not the wonderfully comprehensive book pictured above in green, was ordered.  If you’d like a copy of the book version of Wild Fermentation — and you certainly do, as it’s one of my favorite preservation books and a charming, unique perspective on preserving all kinds of unusual foods in Sandor’s former, quirky, intentional community in Tennessee — please it order via his website at

In my enthusiasm to show off our community, I dragged Sandor around a bit and introduced him to everyone I could, including the folks at PartyCart, who catered a special reception for Sandor after the talk, and the folks at Open Oak Farm/Adaptive Seeds, since I knew they’d have their winter vegetables going strong and their seeds ready to ship out for the next growing year.  (You may remember Farmer Andrew on KLCC’s Food for Thought; he gave a forceful defense to keep canola out of the Willamette Valley because of the specialized seed crops cultivated here.)

Everywhere we went, people seemed to know he was there and gravitated toward him with little gifts and good wishes.  We chatted with scholars, brewers, cooks, food industry people, farmers, even a filmmaker.  And it gave me faith in Eugene again — sometimes I think we’re a bit too laid back and passive, but I was reminded that there are all kinds of creative passions bubbling up around town.  Sandor was absolutely right when he said in his lecture that ideas can ferment, too: the excitement about new ways of understanding food can actually change a community.  I’m seeing it happen with my own eyes, and god, I’m so privileged to be a part of it.

The reception dinner was marvelous; Tiffany made the ultimate sacrifice to stay behind and prepare a ham smoked by Mark, with sides of fermented chow chow, ginger spoon bread with polenta, stuffed cabbages that I wish I were eating right now, and a slab pie with apple and quince.  I’m mentioning all this because it was the best catered food I’ve had in Eugene by far, so I’m hoping you will consider them for your holiday gatherings and beyond as they try to stay dry this winter and raise funds for a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Thanks, Sandor, for sharing your knowledge and perspective with us here in Eugene, and we hope you’ll come back and visit us again soon!

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