In the most generalised, sweeping statement of all time, I guess the notion of a holiday is to break from the norm and remove oneself from a situation you are possibly not so fulfilled in, an effort to escape the banal nature of life.
When you remove yourself from your most comfortable place of existence in the burning quest for new adventures, it can feel a little compromising. Unless you decide to make this adventure ALL about what you love to do.
And so, thanks to the nudging me the right direction bacteria once again, I put everything to sleep in the fridge, stored the epic collection of things fermenting in the coolest room of the house, (just in case the Irish summer should surpass itself and actually offer some heat) and headed to Portugal to share the skills I have been mastering for some time now. With an open offering to spread the love of fermented foods, the requests to host such a thing have lead me to the beautiful people, in beautiful places, doing beautiful things. That’s my kinda holiday.
So how complicated is this fermenting malarky?
I have really come to understand that the most complicated aspect to fermentation is our own perception and the moment that we let ourselves relax into the magic of the microbes, a deep ancestral light bulb goes off and life makes a lot more sense!
I have had the pleasure of witnessing these light bulb moments, as people experience them for the first time, further added to by the subsequent giddiness that ensues as the idea ferments in their mind and their gut!
Fermentation is integral to life, fermentation is part of so much of what we already enjoy and fermentation connects to so many other bigger concepts of life from philosophy to geography, history to cultural evolution. It is truly alive and part of natures’ mystery.
It was intentional that I left Ireland minus all my kitchen comforts with little to set me up in Portugal, relying on what I could find easily there. By this I mean starter cultures as I wanted to show how easy it all this is harnessing natures free starter kit!
I will admit that in my hand luggage, I skimped on the clothes and packed my nutirbullet and some electric scales. You may note that in nearly every photo I am wearing the same ensemble!
I will excuse these because:
- I have children to feed and I rely on the nutribullet to make smoothies which in turn allows me to hide an aisle of whole foods & superfoods in there….. without them actually realising they are ingesting something potentially healthy
- I was going to be teaching and scales just make life easy.
These two items of choice were a small luxury, the rest, as intended I picked it up the day I arrived thanks to the unnecessarily large selection of goods at ‘Casa China’. (Disclaimer: I am not a fan of Mr.China or plastic, I appreciate that the quality is lacking, but it was all that was available and I was sure that with some exploration I would eventually find a reputable shop selling some delicious glassware from Italy or the like!)
1 manual juicer € 2.25
1 knife € 2.95
1 flip top bootle € 2.95
1 2L jar € 2.85
1 sieve € 1.95
1 funnel €2.00
TOTAL € 14.95
For the small total of €14.95, I was ready to make at least one bottle of ginger bug lemonade and one big jar of whatever ferment of the moment, preferrable seasonal with a quick turn around……so that will be copious amount of Salsa thank you! Clearly the contents are an additional shop. Lemons/sugar/ginger/water will be required for the ginger bug drinks and some tomatoes, pepper, onion, garlic and salt needed for the salsa. This wish list was for personal consumption and not workshops per say, BUT lucky for us the journey would take us to delightful permaculture projects and organic farms with a summer abundance of lemons straight from the tree, tomatoes from the vine and whatever else we fancied, particularily beetroots, oh so many wonderful beetroots. More on the workshops another time!
There was one last item which money could not quantify and that was our day trip to the waterfall in the mountains near Benefeita, to search for fermentation weights a.k.a. river rocks. If this is a reason to start fermenting, then I would say get your swimmers on!
As you can see, fermentation does not require much, no fancy equipment, no real specialised ingredients, just a little know how, lots of magic and patience. Yes, unfortunately in a world of instant gratification, you have to wait for the magic part to happen BUT time makes wonders and the rewards are many.
Join me to discover just how easy all this can be….NEW DATES COMING SOON FOR SEPTEMBER 2017
****I will admit that I brought a small amount of milk kefir grains, because I was particularly in love with them at that moment.
It is common to fall in and out of favour with ferments from time to time and I see this as the body’s cue that it has had enough a particular profile of bacteria. They actually ended up being the biggest pain, as raw, fresh milk is practically unheard of in Portugal. It is pasteurised UHT all the way, I doubted that my clever little kefir friends would see this as food.
However, thanks to the wonderful people of the land I met along the way, I did manage to get some raw milk eventually. It made some delicious, but strong milk kefir thanks to the soaring temperature of 40C, and it lead me to meeting some beautiful goatherders, who also allowed my children to do the milking.
In an ideal world, that how’s I would like it to be, so for this opportunity, I am grateful.