I had a kefir smoothie the other day and, let me tell you, it was an experience. The flavour was something I definitely wasn’t ready for- partially because I was at first unaware I had ordered a kefir smoothie and partially because I’ve not had much experience with fermented foods in the past. They’ve been a part of the health craze, coming back in waves, for the longest time now and yet I’ve never really encountered them directly.
My family, like most, doesn’t do the whole health thing. We eat regular, standard quick meals mainly consisting of a variation of potato, frozen vegetables and protein- so to even begin to consider the realities of fermented foods, I had to do a little research. I’ll give you the same copy and pasted definition of fermented foods that every blog and article seems to use (because who needs originality?)
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid.
This process means food ends up with a bunch of really healthy, beneficial qualities such as rich vitamin content and active bacteria. Sound interesting? Nah, I know.
Unless you’re really interested in health culture, fermented foods probably haven’t come up on your radar- and that’s because they’re not generally the food of the average person; things like kefir and kombucha aren’t staples in most households. The bit that really matters to most people is the flavour, and fermented foods certainly have their own distinctive flavour. Tangy, is the word often chosen to summarise it.
Of course, I’m assuming that you, the reader, is Western. A Western diet is far less inclusive of fermented foods- increasingly over the last few decades as our consumption of unpasteurised milk and things of the sort has dropped to almost nil, but kimchi and kefir are far more common in Asian diets. It’s just now that the Western world is adopting foreign foods under the guise of ‘health.’ Apparently, kimchi will cure my asthma and sauerkraut will prevent me from getting cataracts, but surely if this were true then Asian countries would’ve been showing the effects for centuries.
It all seems a bit of a scam. It pains me to admit that I’m fairly sure I paid almost £5 for my kefir smoothie, which was probably about 200ml. We pay out when we think something is healthy, and that seems to be the reason for the return of the fermented foods. Whilst renowned food writer, Sandor Katz, reasons that raw and fermented foods are an act of rebellion toward “dead, anonymous, industrialized, genetically engineered, and chemicalized corporate food,” I would argue the exact opposite. The trend of fermented foods is corporate manipulation of health culture, those who buy into it are suckers. Drinking a bit of fermented milk isn’t going to make you any healthier than drinking your regular green-top semi-skimmed- but it’ll certainly put you out of pocket.
At roughly £1.10 per 100ml, fermented milk comes out at over £1 more expensive per 100ml versus a simple semi-skimmed (which totals a whopping 4p per 100ml.) Again, kimchi is expensive to buy even in the most budget, jar form. Emma Christensen did an excellent time/money breakdown of whether to make or buy your kimchi- the obvious winner for large consumption being to make it because to buy it is, unsurprisingly, expensive.
I’m puzzled as to why people buy into all this so easily. It’s like the ‘tummy teas’ and ‘flat abs in 10 minutes’ workouts, it’s all bull. Instead of buying a £5 smoothie because it is alleged to make your digestion the best it has ever been, get the £3 one that actually tastes like fruit and will have literally the exact same effect. The whole ‘fermented foods’ craze is just like every other one we’ve had, it’ll pass through; don’t waste your money on it whilst it’s here.
My kefir experience? Weird taste, burnt my tongue and my boyfriend left the whole of his after two sips. It didn’t make my stomach feel light as a feather, but sure made me feel like a health-goddess. 2/10, probably never again.