My Fermentation Story
Several years ago, I was hit by a car riding my bike in Center City Philadelphia. The accident forced a lot of change in my life. First, I needed a spinal surgery that I believe was the catalyst for some serious health issues. Second, it made me realize that I needed to quit my lucrative gig as a marketing manager in Big Food when I noticed that excruciating spinal nerve pain made me cry less than the thought of going back to work, despite interesting work and kind colleagues.
When I quit my job, at the height of the recession, I didn’t know what I was going to do, other than work hard to find out why my robust health had deteriorated horribly and how I could fix it. When seeking health answers from doctors proved useless, I scoured the internet for health advice (not recommended, but like many, I was desperate) which led to a serious, kind of obsessive, daily fermentation habit. My early efforts were very inspired by the Sandor Katz book Wild Fermentation, which had long been the most interesting tome gathering dust on my bookshelf.
After even more visits to even more doctors who told me “every test was normal,” I finally realized that improving my health would be entirely up to me. When I stopped waiting for answers and started experimenting with diet, supplements, and lifestyle, I found relief from some (but not all) of the issues that had arisen following my surgery.
Happily, the fermentation practices that I was enjoying so much were a key part of those healing changes.
Nine years later, my health has improved, and I spend most of my time teaching others to ferment. My initial forays into the fermenty world were all about health, but I’ve long since discovered that there’s so much more to fermenting. My love for the flavors of fermentation led me to write a cookbook, Ferment Your Vegetables, and has lead me around the world and the country to learn and to teach classes on a very wide variety of fermenting topics. Sometimes these things focus on “healthier” ferments, and sometimes not, but they’re always all about the fun and flavor of fermentation.
The science of fermentation is evolving, and studies on human health and the gut microbiome are coming out at an astonishing pace. Some of those are junk and some are great, but most are in need of follow-up, replication and deeper review. I am not a nutritionist, I am not a microbiologist. I am a great lover of fermented foods and drinks and the knowledge I share here comes from what science I can find and believe to be accurate, but mostly from my own practical experience.
I live in Philly and I love Philly and it’s kind of rule here to start ‘f’ sounds with a ‘ph.’ Furthermore, fermented (as opposed to canned or vinegar) pickles are one of the easiest and most delicious ferments I make. (I even wrote my first book about Pickles, Kraut, Kimchi and Kvass!)
Most importantly, I am actually fickle. Before I started fermenting, I never seemed to be able to sustain interest in one topic long enough to blog about it. There are an enormous number of fermented foods and fermented food categories to explore and that keeps my interest-wanderlust in check. The part of my brain that always needs to move on never seems to realize that I’m still under the same umbrella when I start fermenting something new!
Phickle Ferment Philosophy
I will admit to being a little evangelical about fermentation. I was once afraid, but I overcame my fear and fermentation has been a source of joy for me ever since. I hope it will transform your friendly little gut bacteria and your life, as it has mine!
I love hearing from readers! But I am not the person to contact about your health concerns or questions about nutrition and diet. Again, I am not a healthcare professional or a nutritionist, and I don’t pretend to know if any healing I’ve experienced because of ferments is applicable to others.
Other than that, I do try to answer every question and comment! Questions on troubleshooting a particular ferment are more likely to be answered if you put them in the comments of the recipe in question, where others can benefit from your question.
All photos and words are mine with rights reserved, unless otherwise noted! Please don’t post my photos or borrow my words or recipes without my express permission and proper credit. Here’s the official version of that: Copyright © Amanda Feifer O’Brien and phickle, LLC 2010-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amanda Feifer and Phickle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
If you see an Amazon link on this site, it may be an affiliate link. That means I get a small percentage back from purchases you make after you click. The price you pay doesn’t change, and I do appreciate it! It gives me a little extra wiggle room for recipe testing and other fun fermenty things. You can also check out my Amazon Influencer page to support the blog. I try to update it regularly to include my favorite books and supplies for fermenting.
You’ll notice there are no ads here at present. You can support my fermentation work by buying my book, coming to classes and shopping through the above links or affiliate links in posts. No presh. I put this stuff here for everyone, whether or not you can afford it or want to pay. Also, reducing, reusing and shopping local is always the best way, IMO.