I had the chance to talk to Claudia from Swisscultured. Originally from Mexico, Claudia lives near Zurich with her family. She offers fermentation classes in English; it was in her class where I made my first steps into the world of fermentation. Her fermentation journey is really interesting, which is why I asked her for an interview. Thank you for your time, Claudia!
Claudia, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, where do you live now and who is important in your life?
Hi! I am from a city by the Gulf of Mexico called Veracruz. I now live in a small town near Zurich with my husband, 3 spirited children and a cheeky dog.
You’re from Mexico – did you grow up with fermented foods or did you even experience people fermenting foods when you were a child?
My mother is from the south of Mexico, a place called Tabasco. She made Tepache regularly. Tepache is a fermented drink made with pineapple and piloncillo, which is a typical sugar from Mexico. My mum also had Pozol regularly, which is made of fermented corn and cocoa beans. This drink is typical from Tabasco, only people from there really drink it.
What sparked your interest in fermented foods?
I started suffering from seasonal allergies about 2 years after I arrived to Switzerland. I always took antihistamine medication, which was prescribed by the doctor. But when I started having children, I avoided all types of medication. We lived in the UK for a few years, two of my kids were born there. I didn’t have to take any medication back there. But every time I came back to Switzerland during the spring, my allergies would flare up again. They were so bad I even lost my hearing two consecutive years! So when I found out we would move back to Switzerland in 2013, I did a lot of research about how to cure or treat allergies in a natural way. All my research pointed to healing the gut first. That is when I started being more interested in fermented foods. I went back to the UK, as there were no fermentation courses in Zurich at that time. I took a few courses there and that got me started.
What happened to your allergies once you started eating fermented foods?
My allergies have definitely decreased. I can’t say I am completely cured, but I don’t take antihistamines anymore and I can breathe!
Why did your allergies improve with fermented foods?
I started paying more attention to what I ate. I started avoiding processed foods and eating more natural. I also incorporated fermented foods regularly. They improve your overall system. I also take the brine of the sauerkraut when I start feeling a sore throat or just under the weather. I usually don’t need to take any pain or anti-inflammatory medications.
Where did you learn the art of fermentation and who inspires you today?
I learned a lot from books, then online. I also started experimenting at home, and finally, I took a course during a Weston A. Price Conference in London a few years back. I am very inspired by Sandor Katz, I love his philosophy. He likes sharing his knowledge and loves teaching others so they can also get healthy. I have all his books and I also follow his interviews.
What is your favourite book about fermentation?
There are two books I really like and recommend to whoever wants to learn about the huge importance food has in our health. One is called the Gut and Psychology Diet, or GAPS diet by Dr. Natascha Campbell-McBride, she talks about the gut and explains very well how it gets damaged and we can repair it. And the other book is called “Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain – for Life” by Dr. David Perlmutter. He digs deeper into bacteria, it is fascinating.
What kinds of foods and drinks do you ferment regularly?
I drink milk kefir every day. I also have sauerkraut in my fridge, but I sometimes forget to eat it. We also have pickled jalapeños, which is a typical chili from Mexico, they are delicious!
What was the weirdest thing you experienced on your fermentation journey?
Well, I had a nice fermenting surprise. I don’t usually like eating cauliflower, but once fermented with garlic and onion, it is so delicious I can’t stop eating it.
Did you ever experience any fermentation accidents?
Oh, many! I made water kefir in advance for a workshop I was teaching. I added fresh ripe fruit during the second fermentation. But when I opened the bottle, the whole thing shot up like a fountain and there was nothing left for my students to try L I also smuggled jicama, a typical root vegetable from Mexico that you can’t buy here. I prepared it in Mexico, I had it already fermented in a nice jar in my suitcase. The suitcase fell down when we were back home, and the whole jar shattered in many little pieces L And like that, I have many more. It is all part of the experience J
What do you do in your project Swisscultured?
My aim is to share the love of fermented foods and a healthy lifestyle in general. I believe fermented foods can improve our overall health. They are cheap and easy to make. If everyone would eat fermented food regularly, I believe we would all be healthier!