blog/ Fermented/ Food Culture

The Tao of Kraut

It Started with Some Cabbage:

It’s been a long, tough winter, and the more I battle the cold winds and icy temperatures, the closer I come to understanding why bears hibernate.

And despite the cold, every now and again I’ll feel a new creative flutter that fights its way to the surface before being cruelly squished down again by the winter blahs.

Cabbage cured that.

Inspiration Comes in Many Forms:

Last week I had some huge crushing deadlines and was feeling frazzled after hours of staring at an unkind monitor and unyielding keyboard. I did what every overwhelmed marketing strategist/professional writer who works from home and sets their own hours does during work hours and straightened up my desk. Then I vacuumed. Then I headed to the kitchen for inspiration.

I found a gorgeous head of purple cabbage and decided to finally break in the Kraut Kit by Farm Steady that had been languishing on my pantry shelf for a while now. Two things happened as I rinsed, chopped and then massaged (oh, yes- massaging the cabbage with salt is apparently a big part of the kraut process) the cabbage.

  1. I created the basis for sauerkraut, which involves preparing the cabbage and waiting a week for the kraut-y goodness. Hurrah! I produced something on an otherwise lackluster day.
  2. I moved past the block that was keeping me from working on my project and was able to head back to my keyboard with a fresh pair of eyes (and slightly purple tinged hands. Next time I’ll put on gloves immediately) and a clearer head.

I’m Not Sluggish, I’m Fermenting:

There was a second part to the cabbage experiment. This morning I passed my gallon sized jar of fermenting cabbage and smiled in a big way. I’d nearly forgotten about it (remind me to open it on Wednesday) and it was nice to see the tangible product of my previous exertions. After all, even though I wasn’t actively chopping or simmering anything, I was somehow actively creating something new. And I realized that fermented food isn’t only good for you- it’s a fantastic metaphor as well.

As human beings, we can’t always be sitting and coming up with great ideas. prose, widgets or mousetraps. My sister constantly reminds me that we all have different work styles, and my own involves sometimes allowing my brain to hum merrily in the background tackling some huge issue while I distract myself with something else entirely. Sometimes that involves baking or cooking. Other times, it’s planting something or weaving a gemstone and leather bracelet. Sometimes it’s just going for a walk. I can’t predict when inspiration strikes, but I do know that trying to force it never works.

Back in college, I remember reading a gorgeous essay by a woman who considered baking bread to be her expression of strength, creativity and yes, feminism. She didn’t see it as traditional women’s work, but rather the ability to pull together smaller elements and knead them together into something growing, cohesive and ultimately nourishing. She also punched out her aggression into the rising dough, which allowed her to take her understanding to another level. I’m sad that I forgot the name of that piece and its author, though the impact stayed with me all these years later.

To poorly paraphrase Sigmund Freud, sometimes a cabbage is just a cabbage; other times though, it symbolizes growth and change and the ability to create something new even during a long, tough winter.

Till we beet again,


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