Sacred Bee Keeping

I have a tendency to be critical (internally towards myself, and externally towards others), it can come across as tough and judgemental but I do not intend it that way. It is, in me, an expression of striving to discover and do better. Though in many ways Cutia Taranului is a successful project, in the back of my mind there is a continuous conversation about what isn’t good enough and how to do better.

One direction these thoughts go is the relationship between Cutia Taranului and the greater natural ecosystem that underlies it (and all of us). It is a bit of a strange subject for me to address, because my relationship with the natural ecosystem is indirect. It is a relationship that manifests through the producers who partake in the project since they are the ones in a direct relationship with nature.

My views on how to relate to the natural system present some difficulties:

  • I have only a little experience with gardening or farming. As a result, what knowledge I do have is not yet embodied within me. Therefore I cannot offer it with authority. I can only offer it to others, who do relate to nature more often and more directly, as an invitation for them to explore.
  • The knowledge that feels most true to me often goes against popular norms and assumptions. It tends to make me unpopular (though to be honest that depends on who I am talking to).
  • When an established producer is presented with information that brings into question their own embodied and established experience, it can be challenging for them to take in new information. I acknowledge that difficulty: knowing is one thing, applying knowledge is another.
  • New information often points to a path of change. What if the changes have a negative effect on a producer’s livelihood? What if those changes require a producer to make an investment (of time, effort and money)? This leads to a different challenge altogether: how to embrace change in a healthy way?

Bee-keeping is one area where I have questions. I don’t intend to go deep into bee-keeping in this post; I do want to acknowledge that 1) bees are critical to our food supply (without pollination there is no food) and 2) it increasingly seems that there is a bee-crisis all around the world (from mysterious disappearances of entire swarms to collony-collapse-disorder).

From the information I have gathered it seems that most of the problems with bee-keeping originate in … well … how bees are kept. When bees are treated as a honey production system, compromises are made to their well-being. It seems to me that when those compromises add up, they become the systemic problems that we are witnessing with bees.

With that in heart and mind, I’d like to share with you these videos from Sandira & Annelieke in Portugal. They offer a glimpse into bee-keeping that is very different from mainstream bee-keeping. In this story of bee-keeping the bees are at the center, not honey production. These videos offer a glimpse into a world of bee-keeping in which there is a mutual and sacred relationship between bees & humans; a relatonship in which the essence is the depth of the relationship itself and not what is produced by it. I was deeply moved by these videos and want to share them with you:

Cine-i fermierul tau?

Pentru a vedea videocpilul cu subtitrare in limba romana urmati pasii de mai jos:

  1. In fereastra cu videoul, apasati pe „Settings” (rotita din partea dreapta jos),
  2. Alegeti optiunea „Subtitles/CC”,
  3. Apoi alegeti optiunea „Auto-translate”,
  4. Cautati in lista care apare si selectati „Romanian”.

Acum ar trebui sa va apara subtitrarea in limba romana.


Impressions from 1st Cutia Taranului Community Meeting

What follows are my personal impressions. It IS NOT an official summary. It IS an invitation for other participants to add their impressions and reflections as comments to this post. Also I relied on my sometimes incomplete understanding of Romanian with some translation help that was available to me. Things may have gotten lost in understanding and translation.

On September 23rd (2018) we had a first community meeting. We invited producers and members (past and present) from Cluj to come together to an open conversation about Cutia Taranului. My wishes for this meeting were to meet face-to-face and get a direct sense for the members of Cutia Taranului (who we, as organizers, don’t get to meet) and to see if there is potential for connecting with a group of people who would be able to get more involved with the shaping of Cutia Taranului in the future.

The response to our invitation email was weak. Around 10 members showed interest, 7 said they would attend, only 3 showed up. In attendance were also four producer families and a couple of friends of the project. The meetings took up the full three hours we allocated to it.

We did a round of personal introductions and in doing so established „rounds” as a basic method of communications in the meeting. As the meeting progressed, especially when we reached a kind of tipping point in the conversation, it was challenging to hold a conversation in rounds.

We did a round of sharing what each person had on their mind (wishes, concerns, ideas, etc.) regarding Cutia Taranului. I gave, as an example,the subject of packaging (reducing the amount of throw-away plastic used in packaging). I explained that we (the Cutia Taranului administrators) neither have the resources to deal with all the potentially interesting and valuable subjects that come up. I also explained that we do not want Cutia Taranului to be a centralized echo-system: in this case where everyone looks to us to decide on what is important and to provide solutions. The point of this meeting was to see if it would be possible for participants in the echo system look to each-other: members to producers, producers to members, members to members. Despite emphasizing that packaging/plastic was just an example, others seemed to latch on to it.

Some subjects came up, including:

  • plastic in packaging
  • knowing in advance what is going to be in the box
  • allowing members to order customized boxes
  • members going away on vacation (especially in the summer time)
  • „skip a week” – enabling members to efficiently notify producers about being away.
  • including recipes in boxes

The conversation gravitated towards the issue of (lack of) flexibility of box content. This was because:

  1. There were so few members.
  2. The members that were present were relatively new to Cutia Taranului (a few months / weeks)
  3. Two of the three members wanted to talk about the lack of flexibility in selecting contents of boxes and expressed a wish to be able to order whatever they want.

In an attempt to embrace the circle as it was, I felt that  an underlying theme in the subjects that were coming up was relationship and the ripples that our wishes and choices send out into the world. When the circle came back around to me I tried to integrate my thoughts (in a spirit that I usually express also on the Cutia Taranului blog: the cost of choice, lover earth). That seemed to irritate one of the members (= a third of the members preset) and that irritation dominated the last third of the conversation.

We took a short break to ventilate the circle, to drink some water and to allow people to connect informally. When we came back from the break, I asked Andrei (one of the „friends of the project” in attendance, and a permaculture designer) to open the circle. He pointed out that in the previous rounds someone said (and no one contested) that there are three „stakeholders” in Cutia Taranului: producers, members and us (organizers). Andrei pointed out that there is a fourth entity: the larger ecosystem we all partake in. I don’t know how that comment was received by the people present, but for me it was in alignment with the wider subject of relationship I was speaking to: I believe we need to learn to be sensitive to implications that go beyond what directly seems to affect us in the short term.

I was grateful that we tried to make this meeting happen. I was grateful for the producers who made an effort to show up and expressed themselves. I was grateful for the members that showed up. I was disappointed that so few members showed up. I was tired at the end.

Some of my personal echoes from the meeting:

  • For now, I am personally not motivated to do this again (though everyone in the room, when asked in the circle, indicated they would like to meet again). For me, without more members, this format is not effective. Maybe producer-only meetings? Maybe member-only meetings?
  • I do not have a sense of how it may be possible to get more members involved? I realize people are busy; that food may not be as high a priority it is for them as it is for us; that it is OK for people to want food to be a non-issue in their lives . Maybe it is too soon to get members involved? Maybe we need to wait until an explicit wish appears from members to get involved?
  • I feel such a conversation, should it happen again, needs to be re-tuned. I realized that I am not really interested to hear what people want Cutia Taranului to be unless they want to be involved in creating it. There aren’t „free resources” available to respond to „requests” – we really cannot „take requests”. I do believe there is a possibility for more people to get involved and create more things together.
  • Learning to be together, to really listen, to speak clearly, to make choices together … this takes time and can only be learned together. That means that if one day we do come together, we need to be ready to give this process plenty of space and time to mature into something valuable and pleasant.

Meeting participants are welcome to add their meeting impressions and thoughts as comments to this post.

Impresii de la prima Intalnire a Comunitatii Cutia Taranului

Ceea ce urmeaza sunt impresiile mele personale. Acesta NU ESTE un rezumat oficial. ESTE o invitatie catre ceilalti participanti sa isi adauge impresiile si reflectiile personale ca si comentariu la aceasta postare. De asemenea, m-am bazat pe cunostintele mele de limba romana uneori insuficiente completate de ajutor in traduceri, unde a fost posibil. Unele puncte poate s-au pierdut la traducere sau intelegere.

Pe data de 23 Septembrie (2018) am avut prima intalnire a comunitatii noastre. Am invitat producatori si membrii (actuali sau fosti) din Cluj pentru a ne intalni si a conversa deschis despre Cutia Taranului. Dorintele mele de la aceasta intalnire au fost sa ne intalnim fata in fata si sa avem o conectare directa cu membrii Cutiei Taranului (pe care noi, organizatorii, nu reusim sa ii cunoastem) si sa vedem daca exista potential pentru conectarea cu un grup de oameni, care s-ar putea implica mai mult in conturarea Cutiei Taranului in viitor.

Raspunsul la invitatia noastra lansata pe email a fost slab. In jur de 10 membrii s-au aratat interesati, sapte au confirmat prezenta, doar trei au si fost prezenti. Prezente au fost, de asemenea, si patru familii de producatori si cativa prieteni ai proiectului. Intalnirea a avut loc pe parcursul a celor trei ore alocale.

Am inceput cu o runda de prezentari si am continuat in aceasta metoda a ”rundei” si pentru celalalte puncte de comunicare. Pe parcurs ce intalnirea a progresat, la momentul atingerii unor subiecte sensibile, a fost provocator sa pastram conversatia pe runde.

Am facut o runda in care fiecare a putut impartasi ceea ce il preocupa (dorinte, griji, idei, etc.) referitor la Cutia Taranului. Am oferit, ca exemplu, subiectul ambalajelor (reducerea cantitatii de pungi de plastic care se arunca). Am explicat ca noi, (administratorii Cutiei Taranului) nu dispunem de resursele necesare pentru a ne confrunta cu toate temele valoroase si interesante care pot aparea. De asemenea, am explicat ca nu dorim ca Cutia Taranului sa devina un ecosistem centralizat: in care toata lumea se asteapta de la noi sa decidem asupra a ceea ce este important si sa oferim solutii. Scopul acestei intalniri a fost sa descoperim daca ar fi posibil ca participanti la eco-sistem sa ne sprijinim unii pe altii: membrii pe producatori, producatorii pe membrii, membrii pe membrii. In ciuda faptului ca am subliniat ca tematica ambalajului a fost doar un exemplu, unii au ramas fixati pe subiect.

Subiectele ivite au inclus:

  • Plasticul in ambalare
  • A se sti in avans ce se va gasi in cutie
  • A se permite membrilor sa comande cutii personalizate
  • Membrii care sunt plecati in vacanta (mai ales pe perioada verii)
  • ”sari o saptamana” – permiterea ca membrii sa ii informeze in mod eficient pe producatori cand sunt plecati
  • Introducerea retetelor in cutii

Conversatia a deviat catre tematica (lipsei) flexibilitatii la continutul cutiei. Aceasta s-a datorat:

  1. Numarului redus de membrii
  2. Membrii prezenti au fost membrii relativ noi ai Cutiei Taranului (cateva luni / saptamani)
  3. Doi din cei trei membrii prezenti au dorit sa discute despre lipsa flexibilitatii in selectia continutului cutiei si si-au exprimat dorinta de a fi posibil sa comande ce isi doresc

In incercarea de a imbratisa ciclul in forma data, am simtit ca o tema fundamentala, care aparea in subiectele discutate, o reprezenta relatia si valurile pe care dorintele si deciziile noastre le trimiteau in lume. Cand ciclul s-a reintors la mine, am incercat sa imi integrez gandurile (in forma exprimata de mine, de asemenea, pe blogul Cutia Taranului: costul alegerii, Pamantul ca iubita). Asta pare sa fi iritat pe unul din membrii (= o treime a membrilor prezenti) si aceasta iritatie a dominat al treia parte a conversatiei.

Am luat o pauza pentru a permite ventilarea cercului, pentru a ne hidrata si pentru a da ocazia conectarii informale. La reintoarcerea din pauza l-am rugat pe Andrei (unul dintre ”prietenii proiectului”, un designer in permacultura prezent la intalnire) sa deschida cercul. El a subliniat ca in rundele precedente cineva a mentionat ca exista trei ”parti interesate” in Cutia Taranului: producatorii, membrii si noi (organizatorii). Andrei a evidentiat ca exista o a patra parte implicata, si anume, ecosistemul extins la care fiecare din noi ia parte. Nu stiu cum a fost perceput acest comentariu de catre cei prezenti, dar pentru mine aceasta a fost o aliniere la subiectul extins al relatiei despre care am mentionat: Cred ca trebuie sa invatam sa fim mai sensibili la implicatiile care merg mai departe de ceea ce pare ca ne afecteaza in mod direct pe termen scurt.

Am fost recunoscator ca am incercat sa facem ca aceasta intalnire sa se intample. Am fost recunoscator pentru producatorii care au facut efortul de a participa si si-au exprimat parerile. Am fost recunoscator pentru membrii care au luat parte. Am fost dezamagit ca au venit atat de putini membrii. La sfarsit, eram obosit.

Cateva ecouri personale din intalnire:

  • Deocamdata, personal, nu sunt motivat sa repet asta (desi toti cei prezenti, cand au fost intrebati, au raspuns ca isi doresc sa repete asemenea intalniri). Pentru mine, fara mai multi membri, formatul nu este eficient. Poate doar intalniri de producatori? Poate doar intalniri de membrii?
  • Nu imi dau seama care am putea sa adunam mai multi membri. Stiu ca oamenii sunt ocupati, ca poate hrana nu este pentru ei o prioritate de o asemenea importanta ca si pentru noi; ca este OK pentru oameni sa isi doreasca ca hrana sa nu fie o tema in viata lor. Poate este prea devreme sa ii implicam pe membri? Poate trebuie sa asteptam pana cand apare o dorinta explicita din partea membrilor de a se implica?
  • Simt ca, o asemenea conversatie, daca are sa se repete, trebuie recalibrata. Am realizat ca nu ma intereseaza cu adevarat sa aud ce isi doresc oamenii sa fie Cutia Taranului, decat daca, acestia isi doresc sa fie implicati in crearea ei. Nu exista ”resurse libere” disponibile sa raspunda la ”cerinte” – chiar nu putem prelua ”cerinte”. Eu chiar cred ca exista posibilitatea ca mai multi oameni sa se implice si sa creeze mai multe lucruri impreuna.
  • A invata sa stam impreuna, sa ascultam cu adevarat, sa vorbim in mod explicit, sa luam decizii impreuna…acestea iau timp si pot fi invatate doar impreuna. Asta inseamna ca, daca intr-o zi intr-adevar ne intalnim, trebuie sa fim dispusi sa oferim acestui process mult spatiu si timp pentru a creste in ceva valoros si placut.

Participantii la intalnire sunt invitati sa aaduge propriile impresi si ganduri sub forma de comentarii la aceasta postare.


Traducerea si adaptarea: Larissa Bondan

Corectura: Iulia Sara

Nicolas de Castelnau: In vizita la Ildi si Levente

De aproape un an, familia noastra este inrolata in proiectul Cutia Taranului si primeste cutia cu legume (si uneori cu fructe) de la Ildiko si Levente.

In mod ironic, cred ca sistemul asta de cos taranesc este mai raspandit in Europa de Vest. In timpul in care noi am locuit in Franta, intr-adevar la munte, nu am gasit nici o “AMAP” (acronimul local) legumicula in zona respectiva. Dar cand ne-am intors in Romania, printr-un coleg, am aflat de Cutia Taranului si, fiind un loc liber la Levente si Ildiko, ne-am abonat si am fost convinsi foarte repede.

Fiind personal destul de atras de permacultura, am mai vorbit cu Levente, care mi-a explicat ca ei nu folosesc decat ingrasaminte agreate bio, gen alge si avand si legatura cu un sat apropiat de Chesau, mi s-a propus sa mergem sa vizitam ferma lor. Recent, cand Levente mi-a explicat despre sistemul lor de irigatie pentru culturi, fiindca atunci era inca seceta, m-a facut si mai curios.

Asa ca duminica trecuta, dupa ce am stabilit impreuna cu doua zile inainte vizita, m-am pornit la drum cu 2 baietei si un prieten, si am fost primiti de Levente, Ildiko, fiica lor si inca cativa caini simpatici din ferma lor.

Ei ne-au aratat lacurile lor create pentru irigatie, cele trei sere, dintre care una dispune chiar de o mare centrala pe lemne, care permite iarna cresterea unor culturi mai sensibile la frig. Culturile in sere sunt intercalate (diversitatea e mare) ca sa incapa cat mai multe si, desigur, o irigatie bine pusa la punct ajuta mult.

Am fost si afara, in gradina, unde am vazut diverse straturi. Munca este bine gandita, aratul fiind intotdeauna perpendicular cu panta ca sa se evite cat mai mult eroziunea.

Gazdele noastre ne-au facut o foarte mare bucurie cu primele capsuni, in special copiilor, si recunosc ca m-am simtit ca un copil, mai exact, m-a intors in copilarie… cand eram copil, imi placeau mult perele, piersicile, ciresele, capsunile, dar in timp le-am apreciat tot mai putin, intr-o mare parte, m-am cam lasat de fructe. Destul de recent mi-am dat seama, discutand cu oameni care s-au intors din Republica Moldova, Ukraina, Serbia, etc, ca in UE fructele si legumele si-au pierdut cea mai mare parte din gust, si probabil, si din componentele lor nutritive. (Romania are inca putin intarziere in privinta asta fata de nucleul istoric din vestul Europei, dar cu “ajutorul” supermarketurilor face pasi repezi in directia aceasta).

De fapt e o problema mai generala, nu o sa intru in multe detalii despre patentarea semintelor traditionale si a catalogului de seminte UE, necesitatea de a dovedi ca o varietate are caracteristici deosebite pentru a putea fi patentata si atunci comercializata, faptul ca o varietate este foarte bine adaptata unei zone nu este suficient pentru a o face deosebita…

In fine, s-a mers mult catre uniformizare, catre calibrare, catre rezistenta deosebita la transport si depozitare, evident catre chimicale sub orice forma, plus ferme tot mai gigantice, iar esentialul s-a pierdut pe drum…

Dar revin, duminica am degustat capsune destul de mici, cu marimi si forme uneori neuniforme, multe nu erau total coapte (si nu numai din faptul ca baiatul nostru de 5 ani s-a distrat enorm recoltand el insusi o parte din ele), de fapt nu erau nici pe jumate rosii, dar aveau un gust, o aroma, o prospetime care ne faceau sa nu ne putem opri din mancat. Probabil organismul nostru a preluat controlul si tot mai voia vitamine, nutrienti, antioxidanti…

Acum promit ca nu mai cer in viata mea fructe mari si aratoase ca in supermarket, prefer sa fie mici, gustoase si sanatoase!

Levente ne-a mai explicat sistemul lui foarte destept pentru a cultiva capsuni bio, fara chimicale, si fara sa fie confruntat cu boli, ciuperci, etc. Pur si simplu dupa perioada de recoltare, el taie partea aeriana a plantelor de capsuni, care vor creste la loc inainte de recoltarea urmatoare.

In concluzie, aici este o ferma unde se lucreaza cu cap, zi lumina pentru a oferi o mare diversitate de produse vegetale pentru apoximativ 60 de familii, pe modesta suprafata de 5 hectare.

Desigur, nici noua nu ne este intotdeauna usor, mai ales de cand s-a revenit la o livrare pe saptamana. Ne este uneori greu sa pregatim toate legumele primite, cand este asa de tentant sa alegem semipreparate din supermarket-uri, atragatoare, care nu necesita efort sau timp lung de pregatire, dar, nu sunt, nici pe departe, la fel de sanatoase.

Această prezentare necesită JavaScript.

Asa ca si cu ajutorul apropiatilor care primesc si ei ceva legume, incercam sa diversificam retetele sau chiar sa combinam creativ unele alimente cu legume.

In final, dorim sa multumim familiei lui Levente si Ildiko, fiindca ne dau mai mult decat mancare, ne si transmit pasiunea lor pentru a creste produse bune si sanatoase, si asa, ajuta familia noastra sa ramana mai sanatoasa decat daca nu am primi mancare de la ei.

Autor: Nicolas de Castelnau, membru al cutiei cu legume de la Ildi si Levente.

Editare text: Larissa Bondan

Costul alegerii industriale

Cifrele din aceasta postare despre productia industriala alimentara contra productiei locale la scala mica sunt complementare la discutia despre costul alegerii:

Consumatorii platesc 7,5 miliarde  de dolari anual pentru mancare procesata industrial. Dar, intre o treime si o jumatate din aceasta productie, este pierduta pe calea ei spre consumatori sau spre masa consumatorilor: stricata pe camp sau pe parcursul transportului, respinsa de retaileri din cauza defectelor sau ramase pe farfurie datorita supraservirii.

Pe cealalta parte, gospodariile tarilor membre ale Organizatiei Cooperarii si Dezvoltarii Economice (OECD) consuma aproximativ cu un sfert mai multa mancare decat ar fi necesar, aceasta conducand la obezitate si probleme ale sanatatii.

Valoarea totala a mancarii supraproduse se ridica la 3,8 miliarde de dolari anual, fiind o combinatie dintre valoarea de 2,49 miliarde dolari platita pe mancare irosita si valoarea de 1,26 miliarde de dolari platita pentru supraconsum.

Adunand dauna extinsa asupra mediului inconjurator – incluzand aici infectarea solului si a apei, emisiile de gaze a solariilor- cu impactul asupra sanatatii si asupra societatii, rezulta ca raul provocat de lantul alimentar industrial este de aproximativ 3 miliarde de dolari. (vezi nota 193). Pentru fiecare dolar cheltuit de consumator in supermarket, daunele asupra sanatatii si a asupra mediului costa cu doi dolari in plus.

… de-a lungul ultimului secol, lantul industrial alimentar nu a introdus pentru productie nici o recolta noua sau vreo noua specie de animale domestice, dar a eliminat 75 % din diversitatea genetica a recoltelor, a redus cu o treime numarul speciilor de animale si a redus valoarea nutritionala a recoltei cu aproape 40%.

Lantul alimentar industrial lucreaza cu doar 137 de specii de plante pentru cultivare si cinci specii pricipale de animale… In contrast, reteaua taranilor reproduce si creste 7.000 de specii de plante diferite si 34 de specii diferite de animale.”

Dragi romani, tara voastra este un loc special datorita traditiei rurale consacrate si inca vie. Pastrati-o vie. Cu fiecare ocazie care vi se iveste, acordati prioritate alimentelor locale in locul celor industriale.


De Original: lyzadanger Derivative:
Diliff, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link


Traducerea: Larissa Bondan

The Cost of Industrial Choice

The figures in this post about industrial food production vs. small-scale local production it felt complementary to our discussion about the cost of choice:
(the original text includes links to research resources for the data).

„Consumers pay $7.5 trillion each year for industrially produced food. But between a third and half of this production is wasted along the way to the consumer or at the table: spoiled in the field or in transport, rejected from grocers because of blemishes, or left on the plate because of over-serving.

Conversely, households in OECD countries consume about a quarter more food than is needed – leading to obesity and related health problems.

The total food overproduced each year is worth $3.8 trillion – a combination of $2.49 trillion worth of food waste and $1.26 trillion of over-consumption …

When the wider environmental damages – including contaminated soils and water, greenhouse gas emissions – are added to the health and social impacts, the harm done by the industrial food chain is almost $5 trillion (see footnote 193). For every dollar consumers spent in supermarkets, health and environmental damages cost two dollars more.

… over the last century, the industrial food chain has not introduced a single new crop or livestock species to production but has cut the genetic diversity of our crops by 75 per cent, reduced the number of species by about one third, and reduced the nutritional value of our crops by up to 40 per cent.

The industrial food chain works with only 137 crop species and five main livestock species … By contrast, the peasant web is breeding and growing 7,000 different crop species and 34 livestock species”

Dear Romanians, your country is a special place because of its established and still living peasantry tradition. Keep it alive. At every opportunity you have give preference to local food over 28industrial food.

By Original: lyzadanger Derivative work:
Diliff, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link


Yoghurt Culture

„Archaeologists believe that human collecting of honey predates our cultivation of the soil … When by chance or intention honey is mixed with water, fermentation happens. When the honey is pure, it acts as a preservative and inhibits microscopic life. But honey diluted with water becomes a stimulating medium for airborne yeast to land, feast upon, and reproduce exponentially, bubbling and vividly alive. Within a short time, the honey-water will be mead, its sugars having been converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide by the action of tiny beings invisible to the human eye.

… It can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks. The production of mead does not require fire, and possibly it has been part of human life for even longer than controlled fire. Imagine the wonder and awe our ancestors must have felt as they first encountered fermenting honey-water in the hollow of a tree. Were they scared by the bubbling? Or just curious? Once they tasted it, they must have liked it and drunk more. Then they started to experience a light, giddy feeling. Surely some divine spirit granted them this substance and the state it induced.

… The learning of techniques to ferment alcohol and thus enter sacred states of altered consciousness is a defining characteristic of human culture, made possible by the life-cycles of humble yeast cultures.

… mead-making marks the passage of humanity from nature to culture.”

from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

If you learn to recognize it fermentation is everywhere. It is in the ubiquitous Romanian winter pickles and cabbages (sauerkraut), borscht, cheese & kefir & most other milk products, bread, beer, wine, soy sauce & miso, tea, coffee, cocoa, vinegar … so much of our nutrition is a product of fermentation! Today I’d like to share with you all a story about Yoghurt.

A few months ago Iulia heard from Madalin (a Bucharest producer) about his success in making Yoghurt. She then organized a conference call where Madalin shared his process with a few other interested producers. Horvath family, from Cluj were also on the call. For approximately two months their members have been enjoying a surprise of a small bottle of Yoghurt in their packages.

A few days ago Iulia came back from Cluj with a sample of that Yoghurt. It is delicious. It has a nice consistency and a delicate flavor that mixed wonderfully with the fruit salad that Iulia added to it. One bottle of yoghurt was enough for our two servings, but then it was gone … and I wanted more. To be honest we did have another bottle, but when I say I wanted more I really meant to say I want it to be available to us all the time.

The first thought that came to my mind was of my old industrial mentality: „How can Horvath family ramp up production and make more?” Then I realized that thanks to the nature of fermentation they don’t need to. We can make as much Yoghurt as we want!

Disclaimer: The oh-so-simple instructions work oh-so-well with naturally made living products. These instruction may not be applicable for industrially produced, lifeless, store-bought produce.

To make Yoghurt all you need is a little Yoghurt and some fresh milk (the milk that is delivered by the Horvath family is raw). All you need to do is add some Yoghurt to fresh milk, place it in a warm place (~20c, it will still work in a lower temperature but will take longer) and … wait! Within ~24 hours the consistency of the milk will begin to change. It is ready when … no need to look at your watch … it reaches a consistency and flavor you like. When it is ready, set aside a bit of Yoghurt and add it to another batch of milk. You are an independent yoghurt producer.

We don’t need large industrial food production that need strict regulations to provide us with low-quality food. We do need lots of small producers who care deeply about their produce and their customers because their life depends on it. Can there be a better way to embody that view then by every family becoming its own producer.

This also touches on our recent theme of the cost of choice. In an industrial mindset the burden of production automatically falls to the producer. Suppose we all wanted to have more yoghurt. That would mean that Horvath family would need to purchase larger fermentation containers, enough to be able to produce numerous generations of yoghurt for a steady supply. They would need to arrange a warm space to hold them all. They would need to sterilize them between uses. They would need to tend to the new „production line”. They would need to purchase and package many more bottles (creating more waste). They would need to finance all these additional tools, space and effort, and all that would at best yield a marginal difference in their income.

With yoghurt we have a sweet opportunity to experience something we don’t often get to experience as urban creatures. We don’t need to all agree to becoming yoghurt consumers. We can all become producers for whatever we want to consume. That small bottle of yoghurt is, if you want it to be, much more than a product, it is a seed for you to plant and nurture in your home, in your life. It is a teacher, if you want it to be, of a profound meaning of culture.