Fermented Foods of the World

© 2008 Kenneth Todar, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Some Common Fermented Foods (© 2008 Kenneth Todar, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

For those interested in the impact of fermentation on human history, here’s a useful tool:

Fermented Foods of the World: A Dictionary and Guide, by Geoffrey Campbell-Platt (Butterworths, 1987).

Now somewhat rare, with a price tag of over $600.00 for at least one used copy available online, it’s not a book that should be checked out of the library, but should remain labeled “non-circulating” in the reference sections of libraries.

Although the printing date of 1987 may seem a little ancient in these days of instant messaging, believe me, it’s still pretty pertinent, because it deals with traditional foods more than with modern fermentations. Campbell-Platt’s interest in the subject grew out fo the same source as my own: Africa. In his case, Ghana. And specifically dawadawa.

From the earliest days, humans’ choices for food preservation included salting, drying, and fermentation. And in the literature from the first  time a human chose to record in writing anything about food, accounts of fermentation appear.

The dictionary is like any other dictionary, arranged alphabetically. Campbell-Platt gives foreign language terms, and where possible adds alternate names and a multitude of cross-references. In addition, major foods receive extensive entries, defined not just with a brief phrase stating what they consist of, but also consumption patterns or how they are eaten. Short blurbs on production, microbiology and biochemistry, as well as references for further reading follow the short discussion of food type variations within the longer entries.

At the end of this 291-page book, Campbell-Platt includes two very useful indices: Foods by Region and Foods by Class (Beverages, Cereal Products, Dairy Products, Fish Products, Fruit and Vegetable Products, Legume Products, Meat Products, Starch Crop Products, and Miscellaneous Fermented Foods).

Several similar reference works of this type include:

© 2009 C. Bertelsen