Fomenting fermentation
Salla Sariola (University of Helsinki)
Matthäus Rest (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History)
Private Dining Room, Wolfson College
Start time:
18 September, 2018 at 13:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Fermentation is a quintessential multi-species entanglement. Historically, it has been the most important food preservation technology but with industrialisation, fermentation entanglements are rapidly disappearing. In this laboratory we will try out fermentation and discuss its history and future.

Long abstract:

Fermentation is a practice in which humans, animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria meet and thrive. It is the quintessential multi-species entanglement and provides a unique vantage point to engage and connect with recent debates in anthropology and beyond. Today, many of these multi-species collectives that have been fermenting together, often in an unbroken chain for hundreds of human (and millions of microbial) generations, are under a threat of extinction. Main reason for this is the industrialization and standardization of agriculture and food processing. The global decline of small-scale agriculture results in the replacement of a multiplicity of peasant lifeforms with a much less diverse set of industrially bred organisms. Simultaneously, however, popular interest in fermentation is growing. Microbreweries and artisanal cheese makers in the Global North are unable to satisfy local demand while affluent urbanites turn to their grandmothers to learn the preservation practices of old. Homemade fermented foods are considered healthy and hip; they simultaneously ground the fermenter in history and increase her multispecies connections. Our laboratory aims to teach participants how to ferment with lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in their own kitchens. We will make cheese, pickles and bread and talk about the history and present of peasant fermentation. Most importantly, however, we will address the question of how to continue to live with these companion species that have sustained humans for millennia. The laboratory will reconvene the following day to eat the foods we made, weather permitting during a picnic by the Pitt Rivers Museum. Pre-registration: please preregister to the lab via the email convenors link. Location: Wolfson College is a 15+ minute bus ride and walk from the city centre. There is a minibus shuttle service: which will allow delegates to attend and return.