Bacteria's your friend

20:21, Feb 27 2014
Ganesh Raj
SPEAKING UP: Our resident Crimes Against Food writer, Ganesh Raj.

Our weekly series Crimes Against Food takes an irreverent but informative look at culinary misdemeanours.

This week Ganesh Raj takes on why rot can be a good thing ...

Something is rotten in my kitchen - and I like it!

KIMCHI: Who knew month-old veggies could be so tasty?

From sauerkraut to fish sauce, the world has been fermenting and preserving for the longest time.

But bacteria is seriously in fashion now. These days, fridges are so full of miso and tempe, that you can't toss a gluten free cookie without hitting a live and active culture.

Fermenting is controlled rotting. Salting fish and leaving it for 12 months to rot makes fish sauce. Kimchi is the fine art of Korean fermenting where vegetables are allowed to ferment underground in jars for months at a time. 


It produces those sour, pongy cultures that are an active probiotic bacteria living in perfect harmony with one another - a utopian society where the underarm stench of one bacteria is the same as the other. Where farting is acceptable, nay encouraged, and bad breath is a prerequisite for citizenship. 

How do you sign up you say? Well you have to be a 'Good Germ' to begin with.

That is micro-organisms that, instead of giving you strep throat or gonorrhoea, are actually beneficial to your wellbeing.

I'm talking about Lactobacillus Acidophilus. No, this is not the name of Parliament Funkadelic's unreleased album from the 70's, but the good bacteria that lives in us that is constantly being pummelled by modern medicines such as antibiotics, or 'good germ'-killing foods such as processed or fast food.

This bacteria is the Blood of Christ to our internal systems, and fermenting is the Holy Grail that creates it.

Fermented foods are a lot easier to digest because the bacteria in them has already partially digested it for us. Don't think of the mama bird regurgitating a warm mouthful of mush to her babies, but instead focus on the fact that that semi-decomposed cucumber you just ate had friendly bacteria in it, making you healthier and less gassy.

So the next time you dry retch at the smell of fish sauce or kimchi, remember that they are a force of good, unfortunately dressed up in the culinary equivalent of a bad Mardi Gras outfit.