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Fomenting fermentation

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The benefits of fermented foods are myriad. No one knows them better than Sandor Ellix Katz, aka Sandorkraut. Katz, who was diagnosed with AIDS back in 1991, began to enjoy saurkraut, kimchi, miso and a host of other fermented favorites well before his diagnosis. In search of cures and distractions for his illness, Katz sought options which did not rely on a cocktail of pills. He experimented with food and lifestyle changes, returning to fermented foods not only for its nutrition but also for its potential as a remedy for his condition.

What he learned was there were other benefits of the foods he had come to enjoy as a part of his regular meals, not as a cure but as an assuager. After a severe bout of an immune-related illness, Katz decided not to take chances any more experimenting with food and lifestyle to control his condition and began a schedule of medicine.

"It is truly noble to die for what one believes in," he says. "However, I was not quite ready to go."

Although the fermented foods Katz had been taking did not cure him, they did help his gut and belly by multiplying microflora, keeping things like parasites and viruses at bay. "You can never have enough yogurt. If you have thriving microflora, such as lactobacillus, salmonella has a harder time to set in."

Katz can never say enough good things about fermented foods, yet he maintains the importance of eating intuitively--basically, whatever you feel you need. As an example, for breakfast Katz might enjoy his straight- from-under-the-hen fried eggs and raw goat's milk with tea; nothing fermented there.

"Eating a wider diet makes a person more resilient," Katz says, and he underlines that he is "not a dietary guru" who preaches one way to eat. Katz, who has written several books about celebrated people, recently decided to put his talents toward composing a book about the benefits of fermented food and how to make it happen.

"Live-culture food is extremely easy to make and usually so expensive to buy. This is one of the things I demonstrate in my book," he says.

Sandorkraut also will be paying Chapel Hill a visit next week to present a hands-on kimchi making, sauerkraut fixin' workshop at Whole Foods, 81 South Elliot Road in Village Plaza on Tuesday, Oct. 28 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, contact Lica Smith of Whole Foods at 968-1983.

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