Cody visited the doctor frequently growing up in Dallas, Texas. She remembers always feeling “crummy” but no one ever being able to tell her why. She says, “although it was hard, I just sort of accepted that’s how It was always going to be. I normalized it.” Cody and her siblings were raised on mostly processed and fast food but explains, “It was standard. It was what we knew. I don’t ever remember seeing a farmer’s market where I lived and ‘fresh, local food’ just wasn’t a thing.” In the last few years though, a lot has changed for Cody, especially with her relationship to food. Today, her childhood ailments have all but disappeared and she quickly and enthusiastically points to a better diet along with her newfound passion as key reasons for the change. That passion is fermentation.
It started more or less about four years ago when Cody first stepped foot in a farmer’s market. It was eye opening to see this new way of doing food and inspired her to eventually work full time for a small farm in Massachusetts where she quickly learned to embrace a more local, whole food diet. In fact her excitement for local food even got her a nickname among her co-workers, “The Hawk”, for always being the first to spot and snatch up food items gifted to them from others in the community. It was also during this time that Cody started experimenting with fermentation. Although the first batch of kombucha was a complete flop, she kept trying and to the amusement of her roommates, who looked at the jars of milky liquid and floating, slimy disks with bewilderment, she eventually succeeded.
Since moving to Portland a few years ago she has made nearly 30 batches of the probiotic tea and has more recently been experimenting with Jun Kombucha which substitutes the traditional black tea and sugar with green tea and honey. Inevitably, this newfound passion drove her beyond tea and into new fermentation territory making everything from fermented peppers and lemons to ketchup, sauerkraut, and yogurt. Not surprisingly, her fridge and pantry are filled with jars of her own concoctions and she adds to them all the time. With a diet now consisting of primarily whole local foods and a variety of fermented ingredients, Cody says most of her earlier health complications have disappeared. She calls it her “preventative health care”. She also claims that more than just her physical health has improved. Her attitude and outlook on life have, as well, and it does seem to be true. You can’t help but notice what a positive force she is upon meeting her.
Currently working at Portland Homestead Supply Company in Sellwood, it seems a perfect fit. “I love it. The people I work with, the customers that come in, it’s a great environment to be in.” She also never hesitates to share with anyone who’s interested, her joy of fermentation. Just recently she started a conversation with someone at the bus stop on the way home from a food swap and before long she was handing him an extra “SCOBY” (a colony of bacteria and yeast used to make kombucha) she happened to have on her and instructions on how to ferment his first batch! “There is something powerful and enabling about simply making your own food and I want to share that with as many people as I can.”
When she discovered Ripelist, she saw it not only as a perfect way to share extra jars of kombucha and kraut but also as a way to meet others in her neighborhood with the same interest. She’s especially excited about the trading option in the app. “I love trading food. Taking money out of the scenario makes it a more meaningful and open exchange.” She’s sold some of her kombucha as well as SCOBYs through the app but she has also traded for fresh eggs among other things and looks forward to what else she might exchange with this growing community.
Cody is only one individual but I think she represents some of the best aspects of what makes Portland the thriving community it is. Not only desiring to reconnect with the source of her food and what that does for her own health but also recognizing that sharing this with her community is a major part of it as well. Wrapping up the interview in her small SE apartment, I asked her if she had plans for fermenting anything new. Her massive grin informed me that I’d asked an obvious question. “I have so many things I want to try.” She definitely means what she says and in fact has been taking classes on Japanese fermentation and is currently building a nukadoko pickling bed!
True to form, she made sure I didn’t leave empty handed and I walked out with some fermented lemons and a jar of homemade “fire cider” that she claimed would kick a winter cold in the arse if taken at its onset. Once again, generously spreading her new talent and enthusiasm just like all those tiny little life-giving bacteria in her pantry.
*For more information about Ripelist please visit www.ripelist.com.