I bake more bread than we can eat. Even though homemade bread, especially naturally leavened bread, is much more resistant to mould than store-bought, occasionally a piece needs its green and furry bits removed. Even more occasionally, a chunk gets dumped. I could happily bake even more; but what to do with the surplus? I've given loaves away, with great satisfaction on both sides, and even suggested that the recipient pay me to defray my costs, a suggestion that was welcomed with open arms but not, so far, actually acted upon. It seems churlish to keep asking.

So I imbibed Charles Eisenstein's article Economics of Fermentation (on Sandor Katz's excellent Wild Fermentation website) like a thirsty man given water. 1 Eisenstein's key point is that many, many hobbies that transform ingredients into food -- bread, brewing, proper pickles, jams -- are no more difficult, and sometimes easier, to do in moderate bulk. Which means you have a surplus. On the other hand, going the extra mile to make that the basis of an income, a business as opposed to a hobby, can easily transform a pleasure into a chore.

Eisenstein's solution is simple: barter, rather than business. He's not at all averse to accepting cash, but he'd much rather swap his sodas for your pickles. Or bread. Or beer. Or whatever good food you produce in excess. Cash then evens up the costs when necessary.

There's a lot more in his article, which I highly commend; in the end what he's talking about seems to be a mutually dependent set of households each of which does something it loves to do and spreads the benefits around. Of course that sounds utopian; you got a problem with that? Will my friends in the Campaign for Real Farming please jump on this bandwagon.

I have the breads under control. Also yoghurt, which means I am well on my way to a new obsession, lacto-fermented sodas. Joanne is clearly the gravlax queen, and she's no slouch at the breads either. Who's going to do the proper pickles? And the jams? And the sausages? And the cheese? Some lamb chops would be nice too. I've got mint to swap.


  1. And a big tip of the hat to Jocelyn, who first pointed to the article over at The Fresh Loaf.  

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