The Fermented Man: A Year on the Front Lines of a Food Revolution
by Derek Dellinger
The Overlook Press
If you think that Derek Dellinger felt deprived during his year of eating only fermented foods, think again. He was not just surviving on monkish meals of sauerkraut and pickles, but feasting on delicacies like cheese, cultured butter, sourdough bread, salami and prosciutto. Plus, wine and beer are allowed—not to mention delicious beverages like kombucha.
He also tried some more obscure and less appealing fermented foods, like ratfisk, pickled eggs, fermented shark meat and natto. “I had to work myself up for natto,” he says. “Push down a few psychological obstacles I had in my head, like the fact that I generally avoid eating things that trail tendrils of slime.”
Throughout his interesting and often amusing voyage through the world of fermented foods, Dellinger often digresses to discuss key nutrition topics, like the importance of digestion and our need for fats. He deftly dismisses the arguments for a raw food diet. The very act of digestion poses a huge caloric cost, he reminds us. “Raw food necessitates a significant increase in time and energy for the body to process it into something useful, resulting in fewer calories obtained for the effort.” The chimpanzee spends 48 percent of the day eating and chewing, compared to just 4.7 percent for humans. The solution is cooking or fermenting most of our foods to spare the body an excess of energy poured into digestion.
As for fats, Dellinger rightly fingers the curse of the vegetable oils and comes out fighting for butter—if for no other reason than butter makes us feel good and it gives us energy. Take good fats out of the diet and they must be replaced with carbohydrates—and we all know what that has done to our waistlines.
Man cannot live by fermented foods alone, and Dellinger looked forward to his first non-fermented food, consumed on January 1, 2015. We might have chosen a steak, or strawberries, but Dellinger tucked into the food he had been longing for—guacamole!
Some creative recipes round out The Fermented Man: kimchi sourdough pancakes, fermented sweet potato french fries, lacto-fermented salmon, bagal kvass and wild fermented squash beer. Enjoy!
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2016