You know we're always looking for unique things happening in our brilliant county of Somerset? Well, is it possible to get any more off the wall than a Sauerkrautathon... a day of making Sauerkraut that could result in a Guiness World Record being set right here in Wells? It sounds crazy, tons of fun and flipping good for us too, so we caught up with one half of Team Sauerkrautathon, Jo Webster, to discover more about this very cool venture that might just change the way we think about food and our own health.
Here's Jo's Four Thoughts... and you won't want to miss her secret at the end! ;)
What is Sauerkrautathon, how did you come up with the idea & what can people expect on the day?
Sauerkrautathon is many things. It's a little bit crazy and totally unique! It's a free community event, through which my colleague Katie Venner and I are trying to raise awareness about the importance of gut health to all-round mental, physical and emotional health.
One way we can better support gut health is by eating more veg. Eating more veg means we're more likely to have a diverse range of well-functioning and resilient microbes in our guts and this means we're likely to feel better on every level.
One great way to pack in more veg is by eating delicious, tangy fermented veg - such as sauerkraut.
Through Sauerkrautathon, we're aiming to teach as many people as possible how to make traditional sauerkraut. It's cheap. It's easy. ANYONE can do it and we want LOTS of people to learn how, so they can incorporate it into their lives if they so choose.
When I first met Katie (at Wells Food Festival last year), she told me she'd always wanted to stage a mass ‘kraut-in. I thought it was a brilliant idea and after a bit of a tussle with Guinness, they accepted our application to set a Guinness World Record for the largest dish of bacterially fermented Sauerkraut. Sauerkrautathon was born.
Sauerkrautathon is going to be a mammoth session of chopping, salting and bashing cabbage. We hope lots and lots of people (around 300) will help us do this, learn the process as they go and be part of a Guinness World Record Attempt. We aim to make at least 200 kgs of sauerkraut during the day!
On the day, we also have some fantastic speakers talking about the importance of gut health. Guy Watson of Riverford, Prof Tim Spector and Love Island DJ Alana Macfarlane Kempner are among the speakers. Our sponsors, Riverford Organic Farmers, Yeo Valley Organic and Symprove have helped make this wonderful event a reality.
In short, it should be huge fun, a bit crazy but also educational.
2. What are the health benefits of fermented food & can you tell us a bit about when you first decided fermented was the way forward?
There are lots and lots of fantastic fermented foods and drinks, but fermented vegetables are at the heart of Sauerkrautathon. They're magic because they taste great – the range of veg you can ferment is almost endless (it's not limited to cabbage). They're vibrant and tangy foods and they not only contain prebiotics– components of food that are selectively used by our microbes to benefit our health, but also probiotics– live bacteria which can support health. Plus, they contain various vitamins and minerals that we need.
AND they're so cheap and easy to make – they're accessible to all. In Katie’s and my view, fermented veg is a truly awesome food. Societies around the world have been eating it for millennia. We need to adopt it here in the UK, especially given recent research has shown that the UK has the worst diet in Europe!
As for my own fermented food journey, I've researched health for years now but I read 'Gut' by Giulia Enders 4 years ago, and it wasn't so much of a light bulb moment as a flood light moment. From that point, I started exploring fermented foods and the changes I noticed in my body - in terms of bowel movements (!) and bloating were marked, as was the reduction in my general anxiety levels. I've never looked back.
3. If you could encourage anyone to make one small change to their diet to help their gut, what would it be and why?
My understanding of the microbes in our gut leads me to conclude that one size doesn’t fit all. We humans are over 99% genetically identical in terms of our human DNA but the collection of microbes in our gut bears little resemblance to those inside other people – even in identical twins. So, that means our reactions to food, stress, sleep, medication and a whole host of other things will differ compared to the next person.
The one piece of advice that is undisputed though, is that unless you have severe gut issues such as irritable bowel disease, eating more vegetables and continuing to eat more vegetables throughout our lives is a very beneficial thing to do.
I haven’t yet met anyone who couldn’t do with eating more vegetables. The figure isn’t 5 a day, but at least 10 a day. Do it for your microbes!
4. Tell us a secret about the Sauerkrautathon that no-one else knows! ;)
My friend Mara King (a fellow fermenter) and I were talking about fecal microbial transplants (poo transfers from person to person) and how they are helping to treat various illnesses. We wondered what other things in the future might be shifted in humans by receiving microbial transplants through poo... and so the game “Whose Poo” was born! We'll be launching it at Sauerkrautathon, and we expect it to spread around the world as the favourite ice-breaker game/chat-up line/dinner party question EVER. If you want to find out more about it, come and play after you have helped make some sauerkraut with us!
Crikey! We never EVER expected poo to be a part of a Four Thoughts interview!! ;) Just goes to show... always expect the unexpected during a Somerset cool chat!!
Anyway, we're definitely up for a bit of chop chopping! The last Guinness World Record we were part of was the largest gathering of people dressed in inflatable sumo wrestler suits, so definitely bring on the Sauerkrautathon!
It's been a flipping fascinating chat actually and has made us even more determined to grow and eat more veg. How about you?
Hope to see you at the WELLS FOOD FESTIVAL • SUNDAY 14 OCTOBER 2018 • 10AM - 4PM for cabbage chopping and bringing home the World Record to Somerset!
To find out more about all things Sauerkrautathon and gut health, you can follow the team on Twitter or Instagram, check out the Sauerkrautathon website, Jo's website www.wondergut.com and Katie's www.tracebridgesourdough.co.uk
P.S As to what will happen to all the sauerkraut made on the day... after the weigh-in on 26 October, the team will be potting it up and distributing it locally, so if you'd like some (maybe you run a restaurant or cafe locally), please get in touch with Katie or Jo! It will have been cleared by their food hygiene officer, so it will be very safe to eat. Save a jar for us!