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I'm reading The Fermented Man by Derek Dillinger. The author talks about how easy it is to ferment vegetables. You just need to cut the veggies and brine them. However, one day he discovered that Japanese people use rice bran to ferment vegetables. Then he says:

For all my conviction that fermenting vegetables is one of the easiest things in the world, I had not accounted for the various ways other cultures have found to ferment something. It’s not always as easy as shredding and cubing and plopping into a jar.”

I’m confused about the sentence in bold. Firstly, it seems “conviction” has two basic definitions:

  1. an unshakable belief in something without need for proof or evidence
  2. The judgment of a jury or judge that a person is guilty of a crime as charged.

Secondly, “account for” can have many different meanings:

  1. To keep a record of how money has been spent
  2. To know or find out where something or someone is
  3. To explain or justify something
  4. To form some proportion or amount of a larger whole or group

Thirdly, “for all my” seems very simple and colloquial but also very vague to me.

Can anybody tell me which definitions fit the context? And as a whole, what does this sentence mean?

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Let's break this down:

1) In this case, the first given definition of "conviction", that is, an unshakeable belief, applies.
2) To "account for" also means to take into consideration -- a definition not included in the list above.
3) The use of "for all" in this case is idiomatic, as it does not just refer to one idea (in this case his conviction about pickling), but also to an opposing idea in the following part (he had not accounted...).

Let's outline the ideas in the bold text:
A) He was convinced that fermenting vegetables was super-easy.
B) There are actually many different ways to ferment something.
C) He previously did not know, or forgot to consider B).
D) Because his idea of fermenting vegetables failed to consider the different ways of doing it, the fact that there are lots of ways to do it opposes or disproves his previous ideas.
E) The reality is different from what he believed, regardless of how strong his belief was; he feels some disappointment in learning this.

As another example of "for all", consider the following sentence:

For all my hard work, I am paid only a pittance.

What this sentence means is that I only get paid very little even though I work very hard, and I am angry / sad / frustrated by the situation, because it goes against my beliefs about fairness in terms of work and reward.

  • Thanks a lot for the thorough explanation, including the disappointing tone that I wasn't aware of! – fermented reader Aug 24 '17 at 6:15
  • Thank you for selecting my answer, but I'd just like to point out that you could still get some great answers from other people who have not yet seen this question. It's a kind of etiquette to not select an answer until 24 hours after you posted it, to give others a chance to answer, or allow improvements to already good answers. (Win-win for all of us. :D) – LiveMynd Aug 24 '17 at 6:29
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  1. "conviction" could replaced with "belief" here.
  2. "accounted for" could be replaced "considered" or perhaps "researched". (Another similar phrase is "take stock of".)
  3. "for all my [...]" could be replaced with "as a result of my [...]" here. (The result is contrary to what was expected, so in some contexts it could be replaced by "despite my [...]").

The author is saying that his belief that fermenting vegetables (using the way that he is familiar with) is very easy caused him to not consider that other cultures would have different ways of fermenting vegetables.

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