Read The The Art Of Fermentation By Sandor Ellix Katz

Rule your own kingdom of microbacteria

Tough smells can be hard sells.

For most people, the scent of fermenting vegetables wafting from one's closet or basement holds little appeal.

So consider Sandor Ellix Katz the ultimate salesman: The fermentation expert has been instrumental in spreading the gospel of preservation by penning books and leading workshops around the country.

His latest work, The Art of Fermentation ($28), is something of a magnum opus. 

In it, he puts forth his fermentation philosophy,which goes beyond mere pickles. Its scope includes biology, health and economics.

More important, it is the best overall reference to fermenting that we've come across. It also demonstrates how very dependent we are on this process, which has been unfairly pigeonholed as a hippie hobby. Fermentation is at play in everything from bread to cheese to yogurt, and thus deserves the attention of any self-respecting food lover.

To that end, the book's most interesting recipes and instructions are the more eccentric: Start training your nose with sour tonics, fish sauce and fermented beans.

And if your friends complain that your house smells strange, just give them a copy of the book.