by Sharon Henshall
Our digestive system needs to be nourished in the same way our planet's ecosystem does. Recently I attended Anna Middleton's Fermentation Workshop in Bristol in the hope to sharpen my knowledge and abilities to boost my gut's microclimate...
If you've an ear to the ground where it comes to wellbeing, you've probably heard more than a few whisperings of the new foodie 'f word'... fermentation. Many are saying it's the missing link to restoring digestive health and deserves a whole sky of trumpet blowing and a resplendent red carpet style welcome home.
Let's step back to the New Year when I made a resolution that 2015 would be about healing a long-standing problematic relationship I've had with skin and hormonal issues. As time went on, the more I researched, the more google shouted out about gut flora and the miracles of probiotics – that's the friendly guys (or bacteria for the non-squeamish) who help battle against the bad guys in our digestive system. A healthy balance of microbiota and microflora creates the correct digestion of food and ultimately play a massive part in our overall wellbeing.
My new found understanding of stomach health has me so enthused that I plan to write another more comprehensive article sometime soon. But for now let's jump forward to this August when I attended my first ever 'fermentation' course to learn more about my favourite new friends. Run by Anna Middleton, regular Inspired Times feature writer, raw chef & health educator, she too has become passionate about the health benefits of including fermented foods within our daily diets.
At 10am one Sunday morning, a friendly group of seven ladies gathered in Anna's cosy flat to watch demos, sample Anna's delicious recipes and overcome their fermentation fear. It's safe to say we all left inspired and eager to embrace the world of kombucha, kefir, cultured vegetables and fermented nut cheeses – full of a newfound respect and understanding of how strongly they support our digestive system.
Anna's teaching style is relaxed and inclusive... she encouraged us to share our own experiences, as well as passing on her extensive knowledge and print outs of all the recipes she prepped. It's clear that dreaming up delicious menus for health conscious types is not just a way of life for Anna... it's a gift. Frankly, her taste buds should be insured for much more than Bruce Springstean's vocal cords or Elle Macpherson's pins. Everything tasted unbelievably erm... tasty. And that's an massive understatement by the way. From a multitude of kombucha combos to the 'chilli kicking' kimchi and her delicious Macadamia herb & black pepper ricotta... Anna sweetly rounded things off with a choctastic 'fermented nut' no-bake, sugar free Mocha Cheesecake... yum! There were oodles of other lip-smacking raw recipes, all sugar and gluten free, which Anna prepared for our picnic style lunch... this was the only time we unanimously fell silent in order to appreciate the tantalising flavours which tap-danced around our palates.
I was already a kefir convert prior to attending Anna's workshop, but now I am also the proud guardian of a couple of mason jars of cultured vegetables. I've eagerly tried a number of other recipes on our hand out, and all have been given the thumbs up by friends and relatives. Admittedly my Mocha Cheesecake didn't quite match up to Anna's, but I was a raw cake virgin and my learner plates were evident with an over crunchy base & a 'far from smooth' topping. But it still tasted darn good.
Age old skills
Once upon a time these fermentation skills were handed down from generation to generation but, somehow, they got lost along the way. In a culture full of processed foods, antibiotics, sugar and stress, our digestive systems are constantly under attack. Fermented foods bring on the battle to ensure the 'good guys' reign triumphant. Workshops like Anna's are an important part of 'knowledge' resurrection and puts the power back into our hands.
So, how to end this piece, other than on a mantra of 'long live gut flora' or 'hail to magnificent microbes'?... If you hadn't gathered, I'm now a fully-fledged member of the fermentation fan club and suggest for those with any gut gripes, to jump aboard the 'belly bacteria' band wagon. I'm not sure if I'm selling it well with my over use or alliteration, but honestly readers, it's life-changing!
For further information on Anna Middleton's workshops, retreats and events, please visit www.annamiddleton.com/events. Her next Fermentation workshop will be running on 7th November 2015.