Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Cheerfully sipping from the
petri dish of life

February 4, 2009

Kombucha mushroom or SCOBY aka symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, Debra Solomon,
A symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (aka SCOBY) fermenting a jar of sweetened tea into a healthy drink called kombucha.

Recently my possee and I attended a party at the opening of an Amsterdam design event. Free drinks were flowing because the party was heavily sponsored by a distilled beverage company whose name I forget since they don’t sponsor me. The music was rockin, the place was packed, and the lines to the free vodka cocktails were lengthy and full of elbows. More than once we had to give up on getting our group some drinks, way too much work, and we returned to our thirsty dancing.

At one point the possee went outside to evaporate and what should we find right outside the door and right in front of our noses but a bevvy of abandoned cocktails, some more, some less untouched. We looked at the glasses mostly full, mostly untouched, and the gears in our brains started to churn. I had already had a number of these vodka cocktails and I didn’t really want or need a whole one, so I reached for one of the glasses that was half full, thinking, ‘I only want a little, here’s a little, just the perfect amount for me.’

Kombucha mushroom or SCOBY aka symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, Debra Solomon,
An entirely unphotogenic kombucha colony poses in the weak light of the northern winter.

Possee was shocked (as is everyone to whom I tell this story) and they prolifically wondered aloud why I didn’t just take one of the full drinks that was clearly untouched, drink a little, and leave the rest for the next Public Health Risk. I answered that I had no reason to believe that this glass was contaminated or posed any sort of threat to me. Maybe I trust the hygiene of design professionals too much, maybe I just trust my immune system too much, but I told that wall of worry lines that I felt my body was more than up to the challenge of drinking vodka out of a stranger’s glass.

One of ‘em said, Where I come from we call that kind of behaviour ‘licking the pole’. Belly chuckles and guffaws all around, but that was all I needed, and done was done. No, I didn’t get sick, I never get sick, though that’s not to say this sort of behaviour is causal. And although I wash my hands with old fashioned soap when I enter my home and never touch my face with unwashed hands, there’s some part of me that thinks that bravely touching doorknobs and kissing moist-nosed Northerners 3 times on the cheeks as a greeting could be what’s keeping me healthy. Aided by my lacto-bacterial shield I just I love bacteria, and bacteria loves me.

Kombucha mushroom or SCOBY aka symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, Debra Solomon,
Growing a kombucha ‘mother’ big enough to ferment 5 litres of tea.

debra at 19:10 | | post to

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