I made good on my word this weekend – I got off the screens. And I stayed off them for amazing chunks of time. I wasn’t entirely unplugged, but I did better. And ultimately, I felt better, which is what I was after in the first place. I purged a trunk load of stuff from the house (and even my son pitched in, donating some of his toys) and got what was left better organized. I had a “chocolate date” with my son – where we go to local cafe, just the two of us, and share a hot chocolate and get treats. This time we got gluten free/dairy free cinnamon rolls. And we just talked about whatever he wanted. I spent two hours on Sunday making a gluten free chicken pot pie for Sunday dinner (it was amazingly good – the rest of our dinners this week will be anti-climatic after that one). And I read books – actual hard-copy books. I do like my Kindle – it’s literally an entire portable library – but there is something so magical and comforting about tangible books. I’ll never give them up. In fact, we do need to get some more bookshelves. But I digress.
I often find that the universe gives us what we need when we need it, even if we can’t recognize it at first glance. As many of you know, I review books here from time to time, and I got a package in the mail on Saturday from Teszler PR, who represents Fairwinds Press (Quarto Group). I set it aside for awhile, knowing it was a review book, while I did other things. When I opened it and realized it was Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond: A Fun and Flavorful Guide to Fermenting Your Own Probiotic Beverages at Home (affiliate link) by Alex Lewin and Raquel Gaujardo I was pleased, but once I started reading, I actually couldn’t put it down. It’s not just a fermented beverages book, but a manifesto. No, a reminder – a reminder that we are human, and we are of this world in a physical way. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I felt as though this humble book on fermentation was speaking directly to me, exhorting me to live the kind of life I have so instinctually been missing. This quote from the book spoke directly to my heart –
“Today, most us interact all day with digital technology, computers, and remote communication. The electronic revolution has radically and perhaps forever changed the way that we organize, interact, connect, and research. It has also continued the shift that has been taking place in Western culture for centuries: a shift toward the realm of the abstract, toward trusting our heads, and away from trusting our bodies, hearts and intuitions… Reversing this trend by growing food, preparing food, and especially fermenting food and drink is a way for us to engage in a physical rather than abstract way with a realm of life from which we have become estranged, and by so doing, reestablish and strengthen our relationships with our own bodies and with our physical aspect” (Lewin & Guajardo, Fairwinds Press, 2017, p. 22).
Yes! This is precisely what I have been struggling with of late. Who knew I’d find affirmation in a book on kombucha? But the book is more than that, of course, and I love that it gives me the opportunity to be kinetic in multiple ways. First, in the actual practice of reading it – it’s a lovely hard cover volume with gorgeous full color photos and crisp pages. But it’s also an imminently usable cookbook, with recipes that demystify the process of fermentation for beginners. While very well experienced with food preservation techniques like canning, dehydrating and freezing, I still consider myself very much a novice when it comes to fermentation. This book lays it out clearly – what, where, when, why and how neatly organized. And it covers all kinds of beverages – kombucha and kefir of course, but also fermented soda, wines, beers, Mexican-inspired drinks and even fermented cocktails.
My personal favorite chapter in the book is “Five-Minute Recipes” though. Instead of actually fermented these drinks yourself, you’re starting with ingredients that have already been fermented, like yogurt or raw cider. It’s a great intro to fermented drinks, and literally takes minutes. The two recipes that caught my eye especially were Switchel and sekanjabin. Switchel is an apple cider vinegar based drink, while sekanjabin is based on wine vinegar, and is typically flavored with mint. Already having the ingredients on hand for switchel, I decided to give it a whirl – the second way this book encouraged me to get kinetic. I have long been curious about switchel, having first learned of it from the Little House books, where if I recall correctly, Ma made some for Laura and Pa while they were haying in The Long Winter. I also love molasses, so I decided to make mine with molasses for the sugar element. Here’s the proof of life –
The flavors need to meld a bit, then it’ll be ready to drink. I’ll get about four servings out of this quart jar. I’m excited to try the sekanjabin as well, since it’s the same concept, though I’ll wait until this summer for that one so I can use fresh mint from my herb garden in it. And I think this weekend I’ll try get my own wine vinegar going – we go through tons of since we make our own salad dressings and marinades from scratch, and it’s pricey! Making my own from a budget wine will be a lot cheaper, and then I can have it on hand in quantities larger than the 12 ounce bottles you can find at the store.
If I had one criticism of this book, it would be that it’s lacking a formal works cited/bibliography. The authors are diligent about in-text citations and have included a resource section, but as a scholar, I would’ve appreciated a formal bibliography so I can dig deeper into some of the areas they presented in the early chapters on history and health benefits. But overall it was not only a great read, but a practical manual. I can see myself getting quite a bit of use out of this one. And I’m glad I followed my intuition and took some breaks from the screens this weekend. It was just what my soul needed. And now, onward to the breach!
** The fine print – I do receive review books for free from either publishing companies or their PR agencies, however I only review books I enjoy and would personally recommend, and all opinions and experiences are entirely my own.