Walnut Ridge: A week with Sandor Katz

Back in November Sandor Katz came to NYC for an event hosted by Just Food. While he was here he invited me to come to Walnut Ridge in the spring. I'd heard a lot about Walnut Ridge (Sandor's school off the grid in the mountains of Tenneseee), I had friends who attended and most anyone deeply into the fermentation world has heard something about Walnut Ridge at some point or another. I was honored to be invited so, when the application process came up for the spring, I emailed Sandor and he told me I still had to apply, I immediately got my application in and started an adventure deep into my dreamy, over imaginative, and always project-minded brain thinking about what a week with Sandor would look like.

I knew it would be amazing. I knew I would meet amazing people. I knew I would learn a ton.

There is something to be said about going into something know that it's going to be amazing without a doubt. And a week spent at Walnut Ridge was nothing but all of those things, plus some and then some more and then some more. Where do I even begin? The short version would be that Walnut Ridge is magical.

The longer version would be that Walnut Ridge is a magical 1820's cabin with an amazing kitchen -- complete with a couch (my personal favorite feature), embodied by an amazing mentor, and filled with the most stellar group of people. I truly couldn't not of been paired with a more fantastic group of people! Something happens when you are thrown into the woods, into a communal situation, where you are camping, and are going to ferment a ridiculous amount of food. Shared meals, shared clean up, shared making, shared ideas, a teacher who is fully giving of his knowledge, and a space where creativity and bacteria reign. There is no way to talk about this experience other than to say it more than exceeded anything I could of wanted. We covered 57 ferments in 5 days, bacteria bands were born, friendships kindled, documentaries made, bacteria samples taken and sent back to the American Gut Project, explorations, adventures, and copius amounts of food were consumed. And two weeks after leaving I am still reeling from the experience -- one of the best weeks of my life. Dreams of doogh, and rice beer, and zakvass, miso, and homemade koji -- dreams of bottling homemade wine and making anything and everything you could want. And let me not forget to mention that Sandor is one of the most generous, caring, interested, and giving teachers I have ever worked with.