LAST UPDATED April 1, 2021.
Join us for our spring series of short talks with a live Q&A with experts on the culture, history and science behind your daily fermented foods!
Talks are Thursday at 4pm ET, unless otherwise specified, and open to everyone–the more the merrier. Register to attend the virtual talks by filling in this form. Even if you were registered before – please re-register!
This is a living blog where talks will be updated and filled in over time. Please check back for any changes and additions.
January 21 – The Story of Garum: Roman Fish Sauce in a Modern Context
Garum, an ancient Roman staple, was made by fermenting ungutted fish in the hot sun with salt. However, this notorious ingredient was transformed by Roman cooks and home-bakers with honey, herbs, and wines, and has many parallels with luxurious fish sauces used in 5-star restaurants today. In this presentation, Sally Grainger will talk through her experimentations with garum and differentiate ancient sauces (including rare Mediterranean survivals, namely colatura de alici and pissalat) from the modern forms in the east.
Sally is a Roman food historian and experimental archaeologist. She has authored several books, including Cooking Apicus: Roman Recipes for Today and her latest The Story of Garum: Fermented Fish Sauce and Salted Fish in the Ancient World.
January 28 – Novel Misos
How do microbial communities change as fermentation techniques move around the world? What happens when people mix far-flung traditions and local ingredients in new ways in new places for new flavours? Joshua Evans will talk about experiments with novel misos he has conducted among chefs and fermenters in some of Copenhagen’s leading kitchens. He will discuss the ideas behind the experiments, share some results, and explore what these culinary fermentation experiments tell us about microbial biogeography and domestication histories. He will also reflect on the social context of these experiments and what it means to share and remix cultures in today’s world.
Josh is a PhD candidate in Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, and a visiting PhD student at the University of Copenhagen. Previously he was Lead Researcher at Nordic Food Lab, a non-profit institute in Copenhagen that conducted open-source gastronomic research for chefs, academics, and the public.
February 11 – Tasting the History of Wine and Cheese
Each cheese and wine has a history. So too each featured aroma and flavor in each cheese and wine. In this short seminar, Charles Ludington, a historian of both wine and cheese, teams up with Ann-Sophie Barwich to describe key aromas that distinguish notable wines and cheeses and the history of those aromas. In doing so, he will allow listeners to literally savor specific moments in history and, while doing so, understand the chemistry and neuroscience of just what they are experiencing. Ludington is the author of several books, including The Politics of Wine in Britain: A New Cultural History (2013, paperback 2016), and most recently, Food Fights: How the Past Matters in Contemporary Food Debates, edited with Matthew Booker (2019). He is currently writing a book about the role of Irish wine merchants in the transformation of Bordeaux into a luxury wine during the eighteenth century.
Ann-Sophie Barwich is a cognitive scientist and empirical philosopher. She is Assistant Professor at Indiana University Bloomington at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine and the Cognitive Science Program. Her book “Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind” (Harvard University Press) investigates olfaction as a new model for theories of mind and brain.
February 25 – Ukrainian Fermentation: Traditional Practices and Modern Uses with Olia Hercules!
Renowned author, Olia Hercules will talk about traditional fermentation practices that take place in special traditional kitchen spaces, called ‘summer kitchens’. She will talk through a number of regional pickles from fermented tomato sauce to apples pickled in pumpkin puree and whole watermelons fermented in wooden barrels. She will discuss the pickles’ traditional uses in cooking as well as modern interpretations.
This talk is run in partnership with Quail Ridge Bookstore and attendees have the opportunity to purchase Olia’s book, “Summer Kitchens” before and after her talk!
March 4 – A 40,000 Year History of Mead in Southern Africa
Three ingredients exist inside any honeybee hive, wild or domesticated – yeast, beebread (transformed floral pollen) and honey (fructose and glucose). If combined with water these ingredients produce alcohol. Success depends on an accumulation of pharmacological knowledge, keen observation and an astute but flexible cognitive ability. Archaeological evidence from Border Cave, South Africa suggests that honey bee products were being used and consumed by early people 40, 000 years ago. In this presentation, Neil Rusch draws on the archaeological record in support of a long-term chronology involving bees and cognitive development. This better explains the early appearance of intentional fermentation. A deep time perspective also accounts for the occurrence of bees in the ethnography, rock paintings and mythology of the region.
March 18 – Make Mead Like a Viking
Jereme Zimmerman, experimental home-brewer and fermentation enthusiast, will speak on his experiments in recreating ancient meads and beers utilizing the simple techniques and ingredients that would have been available to ancient peoples. He will share what he has learned from his deep digs into ethnographic, archaeological and biomolecular archaeological sources to determine how mead, arguably the world’s most ancient fermented beverage was prepared and enjoyed by ancient peoples across the globe.
April 1 – The Evolution of Sour Taste in Hominids
Rob Dunn, co-founder of the Fermentology series, will discuss the intersection between fermentation and flavor, drawing examples from his new book, written with Monica Sanchez, Delicious, The Evolution of Flavor and How it Made us Human (Princeton University Press). Dunn will focus on the ways in which smell and taste may have allowed our ancestors to begin to distinguish safe ferments from dangerous ones long before they could even speak, much less record their best practices in writing. During his talk, Dunn will solicit stories from the audience about their experiences with smell, fermentation and memory.
The College of Humanities and Social Sciences at NC State University, in partnership with Fermentology and Channel Zed’s Eat, Prey, Run is sponsoring a very special pair of events (below), featuring the Rebecca Wragg Sykes, in conversion with Rob Dunn.
April 15th *at 1PM ET* – The Neanderthal’s Cookbook
Join Rob Dunn and Rebecca Wragg Sykes to learn some Neanderthal recipes! Wragg Sykes has recently published the acclaimed and award winning, best-selling book, Kindred a definitive account of the lives of the Neanderthals based on the most up-to-date archaeological discoveries. Dunn, who has, along with Monica Sanchez, just published a new book about the evolution of flavor and its role in human evolution, Delicious, will talk to Wragg Sykes about Neanderthal cooking, tastes and the extent to which Neanderthals had local culinary cultures. Wragg Sykes and Dunn close their conversation with a recipe for a Neanderthal-inspired mixed drink
April 19th * MONDAY at 12:30PM ET on Eat, Prey Run* – A Neanderthal Cook-A-Long
April 29 – Mezcal and Tequila
For centuries, people in Mexico have battled over the right to make and sell mezcal and tequila, two of its most iconic products. The first mezcals, or distilled agave spirits, originated in the Colima volcanoes region in western Mexico. As distillation techniques spread into indigenous communities and mining centers and along trade routes, mezcal producers adapted their techniques to each region. As the distilleries near the town of Tequila began to expand in the late 1800s, people began referring to their mezcal simply as tequila, and Mexico’s most famous distillate was born. The tequila distilleries industrialized quickly. In contrast, most mezcal is still made by small distilleries. Eventually, both tequila and mezcal were awarded denominations of origin, meaning they can only be made in certain parts of Mexico. But the conflicts over how they are defined and protected have continued.
Sarah Bowen, a Sociology professor at NC State and author of Divided Spirits: Tequila, and Mezcal, and the Politics of Production will tell the stories of tequila and mezcal, how they have evolved over time, and why people are still fighting over them.
May 6 – The Safety of Fermented Foods: Raw-milk vs. Pasteurized Cheese(s)
Cheesemaking is an ancient means of preserving milk. But is cheese made from raw milk inherently riskier than cheese made from pasteurized milk? Heather Paxson will take us through the cultural history and practical implications of U.S. food safety regulation of cheese, which since 1949 has been predicated on a binary distinction between pasteurization and its absence. By bringing into view the artisan techniques of cheesemaking that can accomplish food safety on a par with (or may even exceed) pasteurization, she reframes cheese safety as a matter of holistic practice, not merely “clean” inputs. She will also reflect on the role and challenge of classification — how best to sort a limitless variety of cheese types into meaningful categories — for safety regulators, producers, retailers and consumers alike.
Heather Paxson is Professor and Program Head of Anthropology at MIT. She is the author of The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America, and an Area Editor of The Oxford Companion to Cheese.
May 20 – The Sourdough Library
The sourdough library is unique in the world. Right now, 128 starters from 25 countries are kept in mason jars to be preserved for the future. Their biodiversity is kept for the following generations and all subjects of study. Studies conducted with different universities from around the world. This amazing collection of wheat, rye, rice, wholegrain, durum wheat etc. is maintained following the original protocol and the original flour. Join the sourdough librarian, Karl De Smedt, for this exciting talk!
June 10 – Inuit Fermentation: Animal-based & Archaic
To be scheduled soon:
TBD – In the Name of Deliciousness – Ferment!
Homo is evolutionary designed to crave foodstuff with the basic tastes sweet and umami. Umami is a common trait of meat, fungus, and marine foods like fish, shellfish, mollusks, and seaweeds. The most powerful way of releasing a latent potential of umami (and kokumi) in foods proceeds via microbial and enzymatic fermentation, as is well known from cheese, fish sauce, soy sauce, and cured ham. In contrast, green plant-based foods like vegetables are, by fundamental biological reasons, very poor in umami and sweetness. Understanding how we can impart these taste sensations to green food, most prominently by fermentation within a flexitarian dietary scheme, will aid us towards an eating behavior that is not only more sustainable but also healthy, delicious, and enjoyable. Join University of Copenhagen food professor and author of Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste, Ole G. Mouritsen for this enlightening discussion.
This collaborative project is sponsored by NC State Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Program, NC State’s Departments of Applied Ecology and Agricultural and Human Sciences, NC State University Libraries, the Center for Evolutionary Hologenomics at the University of Copenhagen, and the Natural History Museum of Denmark.