|(photo by noobcook)|
Both my parents worked, and many were the nights that yours truly had nothing to go with his bowl of rice except stinky fermented bean curd. The stuff was so powerful that an eighth of a teaspoon was enough to flavor (contaminate?) an entire bowl of rice. I couldn't fathom why my parents liked it, and that childhood memory to this day has banished the ingredient from my kitchen.
Why am I talking about this? Because fermented foods are making a comeback.
Not only are many people liking the taste, there is a scientific reason for going stinky:
Fermentation produces delicious foods. But more than that, it connects humans to the invisible processes of life all—to the microbes that were here for billions of years before humans arrived, and will persist for billions more after they have gone...You may learn to like the flavor, dear reader, and you may even believe fermented foods improve your health; just be aware that your consumption of them won't make you more popular.
Rob Knight, who heads the American Gut Project at the University of California, San Diego and researches the links between the microbiome and general health, says that lactic-acid bacteria do in the sauerkraut crock or the yogurt pot what they do in the gut: render their environment unfriendly to an array of unhealthy fungi and bacteria. Mr Knight has found that people who eat fermented foods tend to have more diverse gut bacteria. This, in turn, tends to be associated with better physical and mental health, though whether a bountifully biodiverse gut is a cause or an effect of better health remains unclear.