Posted on January 2nd, 2013
I have a brown thumb. I kill houseplants with 100% effectiveness. So I was thrilled when I was able to cultivate kombucha. Granted, it doesn’t need to be watered, or really tended in any way, but just the fact that I could take a half bottle of store-bought liquid and turn it into a thick, slimy culture that covered the whole surface of my bowl-full-of-tea seemed like a microbiological miracle.
Once my kombucha took off, there was no stopping me. I became a fermentation fiend. Jars and bottles covered every available surface. Yogurt, kefir, cheese, kimchi, sour pickles, apple cider vinegar, even lacto-fermented root and ginger beer. Time and again I was delighted by the magical transformation of raw materials into something richer and more flavorful.
My intentional-spoilage projects gave me confidence in the kitchen, and this late-onset foodie started making up for lost time. I sautéed, I simmered, I baked, I soaked and sprouted and milked and blended… Though I never mastered the nuances of fine cuisine, soon I had developed a handful of recipes that satisfied both my desire for delicious flavors and my growing compulsion to make for myself what others might buy.
I began to resent the people who bought conventional versions of all of the products I was creating. Who in their right mind would purchase those tiny plastic cups of yogurt? Didn’t they know they were made by machine?! I work in a grocery store, and it was a daily struggle to contain my snobbery. Ghee? Sure, I’ll show you where that is, and barely resist the urge to try to convince you to make it your damn self… Days when I would get to show off my knowledge were almost worse; I’d get a question about fermenting vegetables or making yogurt and I’d launch right in, only to watch the customer’s eyes glaze over after 20 seconds. I couldn’t figure out why everyone wanted everything to be so easy! Wasn’t working at it REALLY HARD the point? Didn’t that make it more satisfying?
Winter was coming on and I was sure that I was ready. I had my vitamin D supplement, I was sprouting all of my grains and beans for heightened vitamin and mineral availability, and consuming vast amounts of home cultured probiotic foods. So when I first started getting headaches, I was flummoxed. Days later I was felled by a sinus infection the likes of which I’d never seen. I made myself a complex herbal tea blend and tried to soldier on, but to no avail. All the neti pot in the world was no match for that wall of congestion, and I won’t even tell you about the colors of the snot.
I felt betrayed. What had I been doing wrong? Every day I had a smoothie that was packed with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and omegas. Surely my homemade almond breads and muffins provided plenty of protein and healthy fats. I was spending every waking, non-working moment stirring, chopping, grinding, straining, seasoning, and cleaning up. And still the colds and sinus infections continued, in wave after unceasing wave until I forgot what it was like to not have a raw nose.
Then, I called in sick one day (not my style) and spent the whole day in bed. I snuggled with my kitty, watched TV, surfed the net… it was beautiful. I was working 6, sometimes 7 days a week, so with all of my food projects, it was incredibly rare for me to spend hours at a time doing nothing. I LOVED it.
It was so much fun I started planning ahead for it. I’d schedule a ‘night off’, don my PJs, and watch stupid TV while chatting with some long-lost acquaintance on Facebook. I felt incredibly guilty about it, especially since I was slipping on the food front, and no longer had a constant supply of homemade healthy food. I even caught myself using coconut milk from the can to make curry instead of cracking the nut open myself! Then one day it dawned on me that I hadn’t been sick in a couple of months. What?! The key to good health was… sitting on my ASS? My inner Yankee was thoroughly offended, but the rest of me breathed a huge sigh of relief, and went out and bought a pint of almond milk ice cream, complete with carrageenan and xanthan gum, made by a machine. I enjoyed every bite.