Kombucha, a fermented drink touted for its medicinal benefits, now greets customers from nearly every beverage shelf in the Seattle-metro Area, with more varieties than some sodas. It’s so ingrained in our beverage culture, the Seattle Seahawks have an official kombucha, Humm. And while the ‘buch is experiencing an upsurge in acceptance and popularity, it’s an ancient beverage brewed and consumed for hundreds of years, and is one of many traditional foods helping us achieve edible democracy.
What Is Food Fermentation?
Produced using a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) to ferment sugar-sweetened tea, this probiotic drink is present in a variety of societies and their food cultures across east and Southeast Asia and the Americas. Methods of deliberate fermentation reflect natural processes of fermentation and are likely part of our history since before its recording.
Fermentation is the conversion of sugars and other carbohydrates into alcohol or preservative organic acids and carbon dioxide. In addition to creating alcoholic beverages and leavened bread, fermentation is used to enrich the diversity of flavors, aromas, and textures in food substrates; to preserve foods; to enrich the nutrient values of foods and to reduce anti-nutrients; and to reduce cooking time and associated fuel resources.
Food Fermenting Keeps Traditions Alive
As a form of food processing, fermentation may contribute to alternative modes of food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and management of post-consumption material in the current national and global system. Our current food systems rely heavily on industrial methods, huge chemical inputs, long-distance transportation, homogenization, and rapid consumption of empty calories and chemical additives, yielding enormous waste.
Kombucha, as virtually any food or drink, is possible to create from locally and sustainably-grown foods, either in community-situated enterprises or cottage industries, by groups or organizations serving the direct needs of its members, or in homes. Enduring relationships based on fair exchange arise out of the principle and practice of buying or acquiring locally from responsible producers and value-added producers.
In this web of relationships, cultural and culinary democracy have the chance to express themselves as long-lived special traditions in food preparation. These traditions are preserved and passed forward to future generations. And the opportunity for experimentation in each home or community is also present. A wide diversity of unique or distinctive recipes are generated by experimentation and relationship building, contributing to the gastromic wealth and nutritional resources enjoyed by individuals, families, and other social groups. A democracy of food options. An edible democracy.