Author Playlists

Liz Crain’s playlist for her cookbook “Fermenter”

“I still miss mixed tapes, do you? I think of these Largehearted Boy playlists as sort of digital analogs of them. And rather than making them for a boyfriend, girlfriend or a friend – as you would a mixed tape — they’re for a whole bunch of fellow book lovers. And not just any book lovers, the best kind — ones who also love music.”

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Liz Crain & Aaron Adams’ Fermenter is much more than a cookbook, it’s two experts in the kitchen with you trading stories and food science and mouth-watering plant-based recipes.

Booklist wrote of the book:

“With chapter titles like ‘eat your salty, sour vegetables’ and ‘mold is gold,’ the most bold and adventurous will be called forth to the kitchen to experiment. Recommended for those who are eager to get serious about food.”

In her own words, here is Liz Crain’s Book Notes music playlist for her cookook Fermenter:

I still miss mixed tapes, do you? I think of these Largehearted Boy playlists as sort of digital analogs of them. And rather than making them for a boyfriend, girlfriend or a friend – as you would a mixed tape — they’re for a whole bunch of fellow book lovers. And not just any book lovers, the best kind — ones who also love music.

Every time I write a book, I look forward to putting together a Largehearted Boy playlist for it. The last one I did was for my cookbook Dumplings Equal Love, which published in 2020. Before that I wrote playlists for the Toro Bravo cookbook (McSweeney’s 2013), Grow Your Own: Understanding, Cultivating and Enjoying Cannabis (Tin House 2017) and the other food + culture books I’ve written over the years.

My newest cookbook – Fermenter: DIY Fermentation for Vegan Fare — co-authored with Portland chef Aaron Adams is true to its name. And, you are the fermenter!

Part One is filled with all sorts of recipes for easy make-at-home kitchen ferments — everything from Sour Dills & Pickle Brine and seaweed- and hemp seed-studded North Coast Kraut, to all sorts of tempehs, nut-and-seed-based cheeses and fizzy fermented drinks like Raspberry-Lime Leaf Kefir and Beet-Ginger Meyer Lemon Kombucha. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of get-you-started stuff and nothing is too complicated.

Part Two of Fermenter is all the tasty recipes that incorporate the ferments in Part One — the Almost Famous Fermenter Burger, Cheesy Jojo Supreme with Tempeh Bacon, a BBQ Tempeh Sammy with Poppy Seed Slaw & Coffee BBQ Sauce and much, much more.

All of the recipes in Fermenter are 100% plant-based. The levels of deep flavor and umami that we get you to with these vegan ferments — well, let’s just say that you won’t miss meat, seafood or dairy. I promise. And I’m an omnivore.

And, you don’t have to just take my word for it. Here’s what Top Chef All-Star and recent James Beard Award-winning RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR recipient, Gregory Gourdet, has to say in the Fermenter foreword:

Fermenter is hands down one of my favorite restaurants in the country, and luckily, I live just a few blocks away…Fermenter cookbook is a blueprint to get started fermenting at home whether you will be making pickles for the first time or are a kimchi wizard…I have explored various fermentation methods and have had ferments on my menus, but I learned new things in every single recipe of this vital book…when everything clicks, something incredible happens. And with a fridge and pantry stocked with a sundry of fermented foods, your cooking game transforms. Your family, friends, and health will thank you for it.

Thank you, GG!

I hope you dig all of the songs I’ve picked out here and I hope they make you feel good. And, I hope you dig our Fermenter cookbook and that it makes you feel good…

Maria Tambien – Khruangbin, Con Todo El Mundo

I got into the wide world of food and drink fermentation shortly after I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2002, and I fell hard for it. Head over heels into my first 2-gallon stoneware pickling crock. Ouch!

After flying out to Tennessee to interview my hero and fermentation revivalist Sandor Ellix Katz for The Sun magazine in early 2009, I got inspired to start the Portland Fermentation Festival in late 2009 with friends. It’s now, all these years later, one of the nation’s longest-running fermentation festivals. We lovingly call it Stinkfest.

My co-author of the Fermenter cookbook, Aaron Adams, chef-owner of the book’s namesake Portland restaurant, was a part of our last 2019 festival — the tenth annual with David Zilber of Noma and The Noma Guide to Fermentation as honorary guest speaker. It was pure magic. And, as it turns out, it was also the last large gathering of all of us Portland-area fermentation folks pre-pandemic. Our 2023 Stinkfest is now on the books btw!

So, I’m kicking off the playlist with three songs from that 2019 fest playlist (my boyfriend, DJ Jimbo, makes us a playlist every year) that I think will put some pep in your step.

It’s Your Thing (Everything’s Alright), Señor Soul, It’s Your Thing

The gist of the Fermenter cookbook is in the title of this song — it’s your thing! So, please do it TO IT! In the book we help you out with things like, well, a ton of yummy recipes, and we also answer questions you might have about everything from the basics of fermentation, to what sort of kitchen equipment you need to do it (not much — got a jar? Got a knife?), to problems that might come up like the occasional off flavors and textures.

From the book’s Intro:

And, for the record, I 100 percent fully believe in keeping the Y in DIY. Do it yourself. Please. Make things! I won’t hold your hand: you’ve gotta do the work, but I will give you a lot of advice, whether you ask for it or not.

Great to Be Here, Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, The Serpent’s Mouth

You know what? It is great to be here like the title of this song says. We’re post-peak-pandemic and now we get to do all sorts of fun things like hug the ones we love, gather together, have house parties again, share sips of drinks and bites of yummy foods — all that good stuff. Only one life! I’m so glad that we get to share it fully with one another again.

One of Aaron’s favorite sections in our Fermenter book comes just before Part One of the book and it’s very much in-line with what I just wrote:

I love Mary Oliver and that very famous line from her poem “The Summer Day”: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” That line in particular really stirs me. Sometimes I’m crippled by anxiety and worry I’m not honoring the spirit she was getting at with that question. But then I remember that what I want and what other people want is so incredibly varied. I’m following through on my plan for my wild and precious life: I’m a cook and I’m damn grateful to be one.

The Beat Goes On, Sonny & Cher, In Case You’re in Love

One of the most incredible, delicious and woweee things in the book is the Koji Beets recipe. They’re the star of the show of one of my all-time favorite Fermenter menu items — the Koji Beet Reuben. Every time I go to Fermenter, I have to order it. And, the BEET goes on! That Koji Beets recipe is thanks in large part to Rich Shih and Jeremy Umansky and their rad James Beard Award-winning cookbook Koji Alchemy. Love that book.

If you want to spend the better part of two weeks on a cook + ferment project that will take your cooking to a whole new level, flip to page 73 of Fermenter and get down with these beets.

Hot, Roy Ayers, You Might Be Surprised (Expanded Edition)

Every time I work on a cookbook there are at least a dozen recipes that end up in my regular kitchen repertoire. For Fermenter, the Hot Behind Hot Sauce is one. It’s a super simple ferment with just four base ingredients — chili peppers of whatever heat level you dig, garlic, salt, water — and it’s so freaking good! I always double the recipe and make about a quart. When I’ve got a few inches left in the hot sauce jar, well, it’s time to start fermenting a new batch.

As for the name of this one – Hot Behind Hot Sauce — Aaron explains it in the book in the recipe’s headnote…

In restaurant kitchens when you’re walking behind someone you announce yourself, since everyone is moving fast in tight quarters. Typically, you say “Behind” when you aren’t holding anything; “Sharp behind” when you’ve got a knife, cleaver, etc.; and “Hot behind” when you’re carrying something just out of the oven or off the burner.

When someone says, “Hot behind,” I typically reply, “Why, thank

you!” because I love dad jokes. I say it over and over, to the chagrin of my coworkers. My wife tells me that the key to comedy is to wear people down with your jokes through repetition until they laugh out of desperation. When they finally offer a weak little laugh, you can heartily guffaw, victorious.

The Tears of a Clown, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Make It Happen

I love Smokey Robinson. If you do too, I highly recommend his semi-recent interview with Marc Maron (Maron is vegan now by the way — going the plant-based way) on his WTF podcast. On it Smokey talks about how this song came to be and many others. He tells a lot of really heartfelt and revealing stories about his life coming up as a musician, running Motown all those years, different close friendships with folks such as Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder (who he co-wrote this song with) and then some. I love Maron and I love Smokey.

And, now for the jump. You ready? There’s Smokey Robinson and then there are all kinds of smoked recipes in the Fermenter cookbook. That’s right! Made with a smoker.

Those Koji Beets that I already told you about are one. Other recipes that you’ll use a smoker for in the book: the Fermenter Tempeh Bacon, Smoked Onion Shio Koji, Coffee BBQ Sauce, and Smoked Pinto Bratwurst. I love all of them so very much.

New Song, Howard Jones, Human’s Lib (2008 remastered version)

In the fall of 2022, when I was working on the first round of edits for Fermenter, my boyfriend Jimbo sent me a link to the video for this fun 1983 British song. I was getting a little cross-eyed from the line-by-line edits – I had two weeks to go through the entire manuscript for that first round — and he sent it to cheer me up.

The beginning of the video is set in a pickle factory and I was writing about all kinds of fermenty pickley things. The Sour Dills & Pickle Brine in Fermenter are so tasty and really easy to make by the way if you want to set up your own at-home pickle factory.

I love the lyrics of this song. Made feel good when I was burning that midnight oil:

This is a song to all my friends
They take the challenge to their hearts
Challenging preconceived ideas

Saying goodbye to long standing fear
Don’t crack up, bend your brain, see both sides

Throw off your mental chains
I don’t want to be hip and cool
I don’t want to play by the rules
Not under the thumb of the cynical few
Or laden down by the doom crew

Jimbo’s weekly XRAY.FM radio show, Electric Avenue, is real good btw.

Waiting, Sonny & the Sunsets, Waiting

If you haven’t gathered yet, cookbooks take a lonnnnng time to put together, so when you finally get to the photoshoot, if you’re lucky enough to have one, it often feels like a celebration. We did it! We made a book!

We had three shoots for the Fermenter book all in late 2022 and early 2023. Our photoshoot crew = photographer extraordinaire George Barberis, stylist Andrea Sloenecker, Sasquatch designer Tony Ong and Sasquatch editor Jill Saginario.

George and I had never worked together, and as he was setting up all of his gear for that first shoot and I was bringing in my crates (filled with Fermenter ferments, tools and equipment etc.), he synced up his phone to the sound system and played a Sonny & the Sunsets song. Sonny is one of my very favorite artists. I LOVE Sonny! I knew we were in the best of hands with George from that moment forward.

This is a single from the newest Sonny & the Sunsets album, Waiting, that just released. Get it here! I hope you like it as much as I do.

When all was said and done photoshoot-wise at the end of shoot #3 for the book, a few months later in early 2023, we listened to Commin’ Home by Cheeseburger. We were shooting the cover with the book’s Almost Famous Burger in George’s Northeast Portland photography studio. (It’s an amazing burger + recipe btw — black lentil + millet Tempeh Burger Patty + those Sour Dills I just raved about + the book’s Miso Sauce and Tomato Ketchup and all the fixings piled HIGH!)

We tried out and shot a lot of options for the book’s cover and then we got real silly and put the burger on top of Aaron’s head. At that point, we played this song. We were all laughing so hard that the burger *almost* fell off his head. Good times. This song isn’t available to everyone on Spotify, so if you want to hear this final, errrr hidden, track you can go ahead and be an internet detective or listen to it here.

For book & music links, themed playlists, a wrap-up of Largehearted Boy feature posts, and more, check out Largehearted Boy’s weekly newsletter.

Also at Largehearted Boy:

Liz Crain’s Playlist for Her Cookbook “Dumplings Equal Love”

Liz Crain’s Playlist for Her Book “Grow Your Own”

Liz Crain’s Playlist for Her Book “Food Lover’s Guide to Portland”

Liz Crain’s Playlist for Her Cookbook “Toro Bravo”

Liz Crain is a longtime writer on Pacific Northwest food and drink. She is the author of Dumplings = Love and coauthor of the cookbooks Toro Bravo, and Hello! My Name is Tasty, as well as 420-friendly Grow Your Own. She is also cofounder of the annual Portland Fermentation Festival.

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