The following blog comes to you from Frank Giglio. Frank is one of my very best friends, someone I have worked with, traveled with, and even run the Tough Mudder with! He recently published a recipe E-book called "Culture of Personality" which focuses on the magic of fermented foods. I asked him to share some musings on the subject. Enjoy! ~Daniel Vitalis
'"If you want to gauge the quality of life within a country, you need only to look at their soil. If you want to gauge the quality of life within a person, you need only to look at their inner soil." — Unknown
What is a Culture of Personality?
With a tone of sacred discipline and an almost spiritual faith, some of the greatest minds in history have spoken with confidence on the importance of various ferments and herbs. Archaeological finds have indicated that we humans have been fermenting plant foods since the hunter gatherer stages of our cultural evolution. As a cultural influence, fermentation is one of the most influential factors of how we have become what we are today. One of our world's most influential leaders, Genghis Khan kept his troops healthy on a diet consisting of fermented foods, while British explorer James Cook sailed thousands of miles across uncharted areas of the globe for three years without losing a single man, consuming only salt and cabbage; sauerkraut. Without microbiological explanation, masters like the roman scholar, Pliny, knew that the art of fermentation was a reliable and practical way to achieve overall robust health which would be passed on to his kin and empower his culture, therefore, he walked forward with confidence, power, and reverence for the art of fermentation.
We protect ourselves with fermentation
Many cultures have referred to the art of fermentation as a support mechanism. This practice adds friendly bacterial communities and nutritive value to various foods. It is the type of food that creates a hospitable environment for our healthy gut flora, which nourishes us and supports our immune system.
Bacteria protect us
Through the study of human microbiology, we have learned that the beneficial bacteria in and on us not only aid in our digestion, cover us in a microbial armor, produce vitamins that we utilize and educate our immune system, but also modify their own behaviors while adapting to its habitat— (our bodies). The art of fermentation has been culturally established in many regions of the world and the technique can be regarded as a cultural practice and influence. Each culture has a different relationship with their ferments, yet all of them use this art form to nourish and protect themselves. These daily habits are paramount to our personal health.
Some epigenetic cues are permanent
Some of these cues, whether good or bad, become permanently expressed in succeeding generations: these cues act to guide the genome through epigenetic evolution and preferably toward survival and adaptation as opposed to an unfavorable genetic disposition such as a tendency toward disease. With this in mind, the art of fermentation can be regarded as a cultural influence and practice that protects our genetic inheritance and therefore, a major contributing factor in our genetic evolution.
Co–creating epigenetic cues with our gut flora as autonomous adults
Bacterial colonies modify their own behaviors according to environment. This also means that our gut flora is modifying its own behaviors according to the foods we ingest. Similarly, the bacteria on our skin are coming into contact with the plants as we travel through our habitat, harvest and wildcraft, and process plants and other useful organisms. The notion that we become biologically, subtly, or energetically familiar with plants as we are exposed to them is common folklore in herbology but the notion that our gut flora and microbiome is also growing more familiar with these plants simultaneously is a new proposition. Through the art of fermentation, we may potentially open up the opportunity to co–create our epigenetic selves and our successors' genetic inheritance. If this is true, while we eat dandelion greens or roll in a dandelion field, our bodies are adapting to those plants and so is our intelligent microbiome. If we eat beneficial bacteria in fermented foods, we create a hospitable environment, which supports our gut flora and epigenome. I certainly hope that my ancestors regarded bacteria or their own lifestyle decisions with this much forethought. I have to wonder how I became who I am today.
Before We are Individual: Going further back into our genetic inheritance
Consider the beginning of our own genetic authorship as individuals. Instead of going all the way down the nautilus of ancestry, look back a few generations. Our mother started producing eggs and our father started producing primitive sperm cells while still in the womb. Our mother and father were already beginning the design of our DNA before they were born, while our grandparents' actions were influencing their genome. Some of our grandparents' epigenetic cues were passed to our parents, which were then passed to us before our parents were even born. Those cues are expressed in our DNA today. Throughout their lives, before our parents had the pleasure of knowing each other or that they would one day share a child, their every action was affecting our authorship and health. Their microflora directly influenced their personal health and therefore who we are today. Our intergenerational script began its tale even before our birth. Our ancestors' every action throughout their entire lives influenced how our genes are expressed today. We entered into this world with a genetic disposition influenced by our intergenerational culture and from the moment of birth on, this disposition can be enhanced or compromised by the decisions we make as increasingly autonomous adults. Our gut flora plays a major role in this process from our very first day out of the womb.
While the act of fermentation is microbial and understandable with the use of science, the art of fermentation is a cosmic one. The art dances and teaches the fermenting artist. Through technique we have gained the ability to utilize and co–create, while the ferment acts on its own. It is for this reason, the most experienced fermenter still expects the occasional surprises. You see, this "controlled" process is still quite wild and independent and we can gain a sense of confidence and surrender from this knowledge.
This relationship has had almost as much of a hand at shaping our food systems as salt has. We have been able to open trade routes, preserve food, and nourish the healthof our culture through this ancient practice. When we look deeper, we find that these little colonies of funky flora provide more stewardship to us than the other way around. By understanding our reliance on our gut flora, we discover a course of action that promotes a positive future. Our genetic inheritance is the only property we truly own and have the potential to pass to our children. This is the only possession, we can expand and nourish as our own.
Culture of Personality features 30 simple and delicious recipes that will enable you to transform your bounty into nourishing fermented side dishes, vinegar extracts, and beverages. This book is the culmination of several years experimentation from myself and co-author Joshua Pfeil with all things fermented and I am very excited to be able to share my experience with you all.