Review of Ruby's Fermentation Class and Sandor Katz's & Frank Cook's Wild Fermen
- Review of Ruby's Fermentation Class and Sandor Katz's & Frank Cook's
Wild Fermentation workshop
Ann Wigmore popularized raw sauerkraut in America. In the 1980's and
1990's, raw sauerkraut frequented raw food potlucks. I took an
excellent raw sauerkraut class taught by an ex-employee of the West
Palm Beach health institute modeled after Ann Wigmore's Hippocrates
I have noticed that in the 2000's, it is rare to have raw ferments
at raw food potlucks. To reintroduce them, on May 24, 2006, I posted
a notice of a free fermentation class by Ruby at People's Food Coop
and on June 8, 2006, I posted a notice of a wild fermentation class
by Sandor Katz and Frank Cook. Below is a review of both classes.
Ruby's free class had a small turn out despite being posted on
rawportland.org and the Portland chapter of the Weston A Price
Foundation. Ruby was well prepared having extensively researched
fermentation and came with numerous notes. She gave a thorough
lecture on the history and health benefits of fermentation. Ruby,
Eric of Its Alive and an ex-employee of Its Alive (I apologize for
forgetting her name) taught their individual methods of fermenting.
They brought in raw ferments for us to taste. They brought all raw
ingredients to make raw sauerkraut and kefir in class. The flavors
varied from seaweed, burdock, ginger to daikon radish.
I apologize for posting a notice for Sandor Katz's wild fermentation
workshop in May. I received the posting from the Portland chapter of
the Weston A Price Foundation. Omitted in the notice was the fee,
the time and address and the description. Only the class title gave
a partial hint of a description.
The contact person, Hope, did not return my phone calls. (I
continued leaving messages. Hope procrastinated until four days
before the workshop to call me. Hope's excuse was that she was a
volunteer. She was not a volunteer. A volunteer derives no benefit.
Hope was on work study and procured the benefit of attending the
workshop for free in exchange for her work. Work study is a good
deal as Hope is it is tax free, whereas paying participants pay with
after tax dollars so they actually work more hours to earn money
after taxes to pay for the workshop. For the above mentioned
reasons, I incorrectly assumed the workshop would be on making raw
fermented food. My apology. Fortunately, there was only one other
person from rawportland.org who attended.
Whereas, the workshop covered making pasteurized kefir, pasteurized
viili (Finnish dairy culture), a cooked rice drink, cooked Indian
rice and lentil bread, miso and tempeh. There was no discussion by
the teacher, Sandor Katz, nor by the four participants who were from
the Weston A Price Foundation on the hazards of soy or
pasteurization. This is surprising as the Weston A Price Foundation
has publicized the hazards of soy and pasteurization. I am emailing
my review to the head of the Portland chapter. Had the description
of the class included soy and pasteurized milk, neither she nor I
would have given Sandor Katz free publicity.
Largely absent at raw food potlucks are fermented kefir drinks and
dips such as coconut kefir. This may be because we don't know about
water kefir grains. Neither Ruby nor Sandor Katz lectured on water
kefir grains, most likely because they don't know about them.
During lunch on Sunday, I had a private conversation with two
participants from the Weston A Price Foundation. One of them gave me
a taste of a nondairy fig kefir made with water kefir grains. Both
dairy kefir grains and water kefir grains can make coconut kefir and
other vegan kefirs, dairy kefir grains need to be put back into
dairy to rejuvenate and reproduce. Water kefir grains can thrive and
reproduce in nondairy. This means that vegans no longer need to
search for raw dairy to feed their dairy kefir grains. We can give
away or replace our dairy kefir grains with water kefir grains!
Her kefir grains were ordered from mothering.com who had ordered
their kefir grains from Australia for $40. She kindly offered to her
email address, so I could get some free water kefir grains. After I
get the grains and after they reproduce, I will offer the grains.
Eat Fat Lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon contains recipes made
with water kefir grains. Would anyone like to read this book or
other books on kefir and present water kefir making at the raw food
For lunch on Saturday, the only raw food was a small amount of raw
sauerkraut made from a prior class which was gone before
participants finished serving themselves. For lunch on Sunday, the
only raw food was three bowls of solely lettuce. A bowl of salad
appeared to contain cooked food in it. None of the entrees had a
label of ingredients. The salad dressing was unlabeled, participants
didn't know what it was, and it was gone before participants
finished serving themselves. Sandor ruined the raw tahini that
otherwise could have been used as a salad dressing by mixing it with
miso and chili kimchee. For lunch, I ate bare lettuce.
At the end of Sunday, participants were offered to take home the
fermented food that was made. However, four of the five ferments
contained ginger. Three of the five also contained chili. Only one
of the five ferments was not spicy hot. Little diversity and lack of
consideration of people who cdon't like hot food or can't eat hot
food. Ginger and chili are pitta. Pitta is the fire element in
Ayurveda. As Frank Cook knows, having gone to India to study
Ayurveda, a person high in pitta needs to refrain from consuming
pitta spices and food.
Sandor Katz used solely his hands to mash all the vegetables that
people took with them. This is not sanitary especially since Tryon
Community Farms failed to supply cloth towels, paper towels or
napkins to dry hands with. There was not hot water to wash hands
Frank Cook led several wild edible and medicinal herb walks. Herbs
and herb walks were not included in the description of the class on
the internet. The herb walks took time away from learning the
fermentation of food and herbs. The first plant walk included
harvesting wild greens which were cooked for Saturday's lunch. Raw
wild greens were not served at either lunch.
Frank Cook gave a too short lecture on harvesting seaweed. He held
up various types of seaweed he harvested on the Oregon coast. Since
the seaweeds were small, participants could not clearly see the
seaweeds he was holding up. Though he did pass a tray that contained
the rehydrated seaweeds and a tray that contained the dry seaweeds,
the seaweed was not labeled. Thus, participants failed to learn to
identify seaweeds. I suggest that Frank Cook label the seaweeds as
well as distribute an illustrative handout on seaweeds or at the
very least refer to a guide for identification.
The handout Frank Cook did distribute consisted of recipes, a
seaweed nutritional chart and a list of resources. The sole seaweed
resource listed was Sea Vegetable Gourmet Cookbook by Eleanor and
John Lewallen. Frank Cook did not mention whether this book had
illustrations for identification. I recommend that Frank Cook
include a reference on identificating and harvesting seaweeds.
Ryan Drum will be lecturing on seaweed this Saturday, July 22 at the
NW Herb Fest. Ryan Drum is an excellent teacher and has experience
teaching at herb schools such as the herb school in Albuquerque, New
Mexico. If I get a rideshare, I will take his class. If there is
interest, I will share what I learned at the raw food discussion
Is anyone interested in a seaweed harvesting field trip? The season
ends in September. To prepare for the field trip, can anyone
volunteer to find pictures of northwest seaweed we can copy to use
Sandor Katz held up the Perfect Pickler. The Perfect Pickler fits
over a canning jar. He did not disclose the name of the manufacturer
or where to purchase it.
Frank Cook promised two hours of instruction on making herbal
elixirs (medicinal herbal honey wines). Whereas, for fifteen
minutes Frank Cook and Sandor Katz lectured and gave an incomplete
demonstration. They do not give the proportion of herb to water.
They had not described the required tools such as a description of a
siphon, what size air lock to use, etc. After the fifteen minutes,
they asked if there were questions. Teaching is not asking students
if they have questions. Teaching is presenting material so students
don't need to ask questions. It may be difficult for students to ask
questions if they don't know enough about the topic to know what to
ask. There is no shortage of herbalist giving herb walks around
Portland. Whereas, no one is teaching how to make herbal elixirs. It
is a pity that a topic worthy of a whole day workshop and formerly
taught by herbalists elsewhere as a whole day workshop, was
minimized and overly simplified to the point of misleading
participants that all they needed was a fifteen minute lecture and
now they can make any herbal elixir.
They neither discussed the medicinal properties of raw honey nor did
they recommend the use of raw honey. They passed around herbal
elixirs they made for participants to taste but did not disclose
whether the honey was raw. Thus, I didn't taste any.
Their coverage of kombucha was even more minimal. Another show but
not tell. Sandor Katz showed a kombucha in a jar. He failed to
explain the specific health benefits of kombucha. He considered it
another variant of kefir with the same health benefits. This is
Sandor Katz did not pass out kombucha tea to taste. Nor did he teach
how to make kombucha tea nor did he refer to a book or website that
had instructions. Therefore, the next day, Gretchen, a participant
from the Weston A Price Foundation, passed out kombucha tea for
participants to taste and an hand out that she wrote and brought in
baby kombuchas to give away. Gretchen's handout contains useful
research that she conducted using various sweeteners and flavored
tea. However, the hand out does not give instructions nor does it
refer to a book or website that gives instructions. Sensing this,
Gretchen offered to return to teach a kombucha class. Hope set the
price of the Saturday morning class at $15 - $20. I think Gretchen
offered to teach for free so the tuition would go all to Tryon.
Neither Sandor Katz nor Frank Cook answered my question on how to
make kombucha medicinal herbal ferments like papaya leaf kombucha
tea made in Australia. Since their workshop is on both ferments and
medicinal herbs, it would be appropriate for them to research
kombucha herbal ferments.
Only one other person asked a question on kombucha which was what
a "mother" was. Sandor incorrectly defined "mother" as layers of
kombucha. Sandor's style of teaching is if questions aren't asked,
he doesn't need to teach and they don't need to know. Few
participants took baby kombuchas home, probably because they neither
were given information on the health benefits of kombucha nor how to
make the tea.
Had Sandor adequately taught on kombucha, participants would not
need to return to pay $15 - $20 for an adjunct class. There was
adequate time to teach more on kombucha and herbal elixirs. The
workshop started a half hour late both mornings and ended a half
hour early. Since they didn't want to teach more, they should have
offered to Gretchen to teach for a half hour instead of ending the
workshop a half hour early.
I suggest to Gretchen to include water kefir grains in her kombucha
class since tthis was not taught at the workshop.
If anyone wants a kombucha baby, please contact me. I give babies
with a word document I made containing instructions on how to make
I suggest to Sandor Katz, Frank Cook and Gretchen that they teach
elsewhere. When Hope finally called me back four days before the
workshop, she gave me the address. I asked about buses. Hope
incorrectly assumed there was weekend bus service. She should know
about bus service to where she resides. After calling Trimet, I left
a message that there was no weekend bus. Hope refused to send an
email to participants on ride sharing. Even if Hope was willing to
send an email, it would have been very short notice. Ride sharing
should be arranged well in advance of an event.
Tryon has acreage but did not have the foresight or at least the
hindsight to realize that a community farm needs to create a grassy
parking lot and/or horse shoe driveway. It is difficult to turn
around and my driver had to park a block away. The other raw foodist
arranged a rideshare for us. Otherwise, we would have had no
transportation. Ironically, due to lack of parking that at the end
of Saturday's workshop, Tryon demanded participants to rideshare the
Despite being a sunny day, there was no water and cups set up on
Saturday morning. By 1 pm, the sun was overhead, water was on the
table but still no cups. When I asked one Tryon participant who I
thought was a work study participant to put out water and cups, she
simply walked away from me.
The two infants and two toddlers belonged to residents of Tryon. I
think Tryon residents received free admission. The toddlers of the
Tryon Community Farm were very noisy and fought with each other.
Neither their mothers nor the teachers asked the toddlers to be
quiet and stop fighting. I have been to several hippie workshops
such as the NW Herb Faire in Washington, the Fairy Congress, etc.
There were no noisy children. This workshop was not a free event.
The notice of this internet circulating on the internet should have
disclosed that infants and toddlers can attend. Paying participants
should have been informed prior to registration that there would be
infants and toddlers admitted so they could make an informed
decision whether to attend..
The work study participants felt they were entitled to attend the
workshop in its entirety. They should have took turns leaving the
workshop to work instead of waiting for breaks in the workshop to
work. This resulted in a delay in timely getting more clean cups,
serving utensils and silverware for lunch, etc.
Neither the notice circulating on the internet nor Hope disclosed
that the workshop was outdoors. Therefore, people did not know to
bring a pillow, blanket or body lotion. Tryon is not set up for
outdoor events. Tryon does not have enough cups. Tryon does not
supply a canopy from shade for participants, pillows or blankets.
Nor did Tryon inform people the workshop would be outdoors so people
could bring pillows or blankets. There were no chairs for
participants on Saturday and only a few chairs on Sunday. Just one
bathroom. Hope instructed us to use the bushes but did not provide
toilet paper. Old small soap bars. No towels in the bathroom to dry
hands. No telephone to use. Sandor Katz and Frank Cook seemed
oblivious to the physical needs of their participants. Tryon has a
strong sense of entitlement with repeated pleas for donations to pay
their mortgage, but I see no justified cause to donate.
I recommend to Gretchen and others to teach classes at the Community
Room at People's Food Coop, like Ruby did. People's gives back to
its community by offering a community room at no charge. Tryon does
not give back. While I do not object to Tryon or any other nonprofit
or for profit charging rent for their facility, the facility and
service must be adequate and timely. People's has two toilets,
toilet paper, chairs, shade, filtered water and cups in the kitchen,
parking and weekend bus transportation. Tryon does not. People's
advertises classes by posting a schedule of classes held at its
community room. Gretchen will probably get few particpants to pay
$15 - $20 for a two hour kombucha class, but she would get more
participants for a free class. What is more important? Tryon
receiving rent for use of their yard (and bring your own vehicle,
water, cups, toilet paper, chair, pillow or blanket) or passing
along the skills of fermentation and the tools of the trade
(kombucha babies and kefir grains) other others who hopefully will
pass it along to others? On the other hand, people may pay for a
class if the class included free kombucha babies and kefir grains.
Ruby, Sandor Katz and Frank Cook consider community important. In
keeping with the spirit of community, I recommend that they provide
kombucha babies and dairy and/or water kefir grains for sale or for
free at their workshops. I recommend that they urge people to share
their babies with others, so the information and tools of the trade
can be passed along and they can replace their "mother' at no charge
if the mother dies or ceases reproducing.
Sandor Katz referred Gem Essence for dairy kefir grains but gave no
phone number or address, incorrectly assuming that everyone has a
computer and internet. There was no reference for water kefir
grains. Few participants are going to take the time to order online
and pay extra for shipping. For examples, kombucha babies and water
kefir grains are sold on the internet for $40. Most of the
participants aren't in an organization such as Raw Portland or
Weston A Price Foundation in which they can network. A piece of
paper was passed along at the workshop for people to write their
contact information, but no one volunteered to copy it and hand it
out or type it up and email it to everyone. Hence, participants
can't contact each other if their $40 kombucha or $40 water kefir
grains they mailed ordered needs to be replaced.