Give Your Food Some Culture

Thanksgiving 2020 ain’t what it used to be…So we ignored the turkey and fixings and smoked a big chicken for the two of us. We’d already decided to forego traveling, and now we’re quarantined anyway, so that just verified that we’d all made the right decision.

I’m thankful for a lot this year. For the fact that we are both healthy, that Joe Biden is president, that we have time for little things, for Instacart and delivered groceries, and my kefir grains that (I believe) are helping to keep me healthy. There’s no time like now to try a new hobby…

If a person paid attention to “experts” telling you what to eat, there would probably be nothing on your plate but organic greens. With a cup of green tea for dessert. No flours, rice, pasta, or beans because they are dangerous carbs. No red meat, pork, or eggs because of cholesterol. No fish because of mercury; no poultry or dairy because of the hormones fed to the animals; indeed, no animal products at all because of the cruelty of eating animals; fruit is too high in sugar; sugars and fats have been known to cause cancer; tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are part of the deadly nightshade family… Are you exhausted yet?

I’ve always tried to ‘eat healthy’. But sometimes it’s hard to tell what is just a nutrition fad and what is truth. In the sixties Adele Davis said “Eat Liver”; in the seventies Frances Moore Lappe said be a vegetarian and eat complementary proteins; in the eighties and nineties fat was the monster to cut completely out of your diet; in the oughties carbs became the villain. Yes, I’ve lived through decades of contradictory advice. So here I am writing a nutrition post on cultured foods. Is it a fad? I don’t know. Am I a nutritionist? Nope — not even close. All I can tell you is that these foods have made me less tired, less crabby (Mr. H.C. might disagree on that one!) and helped with both stomach issues and eczema.

These are the two different kinds of kefir I have culturing on my counter right now:

These foods give you probiotics, or healthy bacteria that your gut needs. Desperately.

I’m not a scientist, and there’s no point for me to go into all that when others have written about it much more fluently than I could. If you need info, try these three articles: Your Gut Bacteria and Your Health ;  Can Gut Bacteria Improve Your Health?  ;  How to Have Healthy Gut Bacteria

There are two kinds of kefir: dairy and non-dairy. They are both so delicious and different from each other, that they really deserve posts of their own. So today I’m writing about non-dairy kefir, similar in benefits to kombucha, but making it requires kefir grains, rather than a scoby.

Water Kefir, Kefir Soda, or Tibicos

These are grains that contain a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. You add the grains to a sugar-water mix; the grains feed off the sugar and produce lactic acid, alcohol, and carbon dioxide, which makes the drink fizzy. (The alcoholic content is negligible — about .5% to .75%.) This is so much  fun to make! It makes you feel like a mad scientist…. I make it a quart at a time with filtered water and 4 tablespoons of raw sugar. You can use brown sugar, coconut sugar, molasses, or maple syrup, but honey and agave syrup are not recommended. It sits on the counter for a day or so to ferment, and then you strain the liquid from the grains. You can drink it at this point, but next is the fun part. Get yourself some fermenting bottles–these are 16 oz. bottles.

Add two ounces of fruit juice (you can also add flavorings here too — ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom…) and fill each bottle with 12 ounces of the fermented liquid. Cap it and wait a day or so. It will carbonate, so you probably want to open the cap once every few hours to let it breathe. I have had explosions, but the bottles don’t break.  I have had to use a mop and a sponge on the floor and on the cabinets (Yes, it looked like a kid’s science project on how to make a volcano, gone awry).

After it sits on the counter for a day or so, refrigerate it, and drink it over ice. This was my summer-time-afternoon-pick-me-up, and I liked it so much, I’m still drinking it. Make it with cider and warm spices. Make it with cranberry and ginger. Make it with pineapple juice and cardamom. It is not sweet–the bacteria feeds on the sugar and so depending on how long you let it ferment, there is almost no sugar left. There is a small amount of alcohol present, as with any fermentation, but it’s minimal. It’s a great substitute for sugary soda drinks, and it is low calorie. My calorie counter, Lose It clocks an eight ounce glass at 10 calories; My Fitness Pal gives the same glass 45 calories. Here’s the thing: No two fermenting times or juices or sugars are the same, so it’s difficult to tell exact calories.

I ordered my grains at Cultured Food Life but there are other places to order it also. Here’s another good site: Cultures for Health and don’t worry, complete instructions come with your orders. And if you know someone who makes water kefir, chances are they will be happy to share some grains with you. Happy grains produce more grains.

Salud! Here’s to health and a happy stomach! And only 35 more days until 2020 is over…

Thoughts on Quarantining

Yes, we’ve been being careful.

Not going anywhere without a mask, staying away from group activities, limiting our shopping in real stores, and still…

Here I am in quarantine, waiting on test results, and best case scenario–out of quarantine on Dec. 1.

Thoughts are swirling….

Perhaps I am being too cautious and don’t really need to do this? I had my mask on. It was about a five-minute encounter with an old lady who shouldn’t have answered her door because she had the virus. (What am I saying? I’m an old lady! But she is older than me, so that makes it ok?) Even more so, she shouldn’t have coughed at me when she opened the door.  She opened the door to tell me she shouldn’t be opening the door…

It is better to err on the side of caution, isn’t it? This is how the virus spreads–people think they are the exception and don’t bother to follow what the health experts have told us to do. Or worse, they flaunt their unbeliefs and don’t social distance, don’t wear masks, and call the virus a hoax in the name of personal freedom.

I’m isolating myself, even though it seems silly because I feel fine,  but I don’t want to be considered one of those people. Just suppose my dear 88-year-old neighbor came down with this because of me…

I feel like a slacker because I’ve canceled things I had committed to doing. Even though everyone assures me that’s just the way it is in 2020, I remain unpersuaded and feeling guilty. (But maybe I feel guilty because I really like staying home with no responsibilities?)

The truth is, I wake every morning and in my groggy, still half-asleep state, I think: Ok, what do I have to do today? And then I relax when I realize the answer is NOTHING…

It really is forced rest and I’ve never been good at it. It’s not that I’m a whirlwind of 24/7 activity, but I have things to do and I need to do them. As I was thinking about this, I remembered an essay I wrote about this very thing a few years ago and I went to reread it. (It’s here if you want to read it too.)

Yes, even then in the midst of busy-ness I was unhappy about the forced rest because I had plenty of things on my to do list…

Perhaps it is the feeling we all share–that we are important and what we have to do is important and nothing had better get in the way of that importance.

Perhaps it is the feeling of guilt that many of us have when we sit and do nothing–we learned it years ago, maybe?

Conscience: What are you doing?
Me: Nothing.
Conscience: Well, you’d better get up and do something. What will people think? Are you lazy? Don’t you know that through laziness the rafters sag and the house leaks because of idle hands?
Me: No. I’m just resting for a few minutes.
Conscience: What if someone sees you just sitting here doing nothing when the kitchen floor needs scrubbing, the house is messy, and your bed isn’t even made! You’d better have two or even three projects going, you know, so people won’t think you are a retired bum.
Me: Hmmm. Maybe I am a retired bum who is quarantined for a reason…So I can make peace with rest. And by the way, Get behind me, Satan…

It’s long past time to let this stuff go…

Many times during this pandemic lockdown time of 2020 I’ve wondered what it is God is trying to tell us. Sometimes we don’t know what it might be until hindsight makes it plain, but I’m thinking that, without a doubt, this is to be a time of reassessment; of determining what is important; a season of quiet. God called it Sabbath Rest. He said: Stop doing and just be. Reacquaint yourself with Me.

It’s become increasingly clear that we can’t. We keep trying to find workarounds and solutions and new ways to keep on doing. Our stuff is important, after all…

I thought I was doing fine–cutting back on activities, staying away from unnecessary store trips, not eating out–you know, the stuff we are all doing? But then real quarantine happened and I realized that I can’t go Anywhere. And what is important, anyway? What if I like staying home too much? Its hard enough to fight my introvert tendencies…

sun in dark clouds

Of course, some parts of living can’t just stop. And finding ways to help each other cope and survive are crucial, but to be honest for a minute: I am feeling guilty for not living my old life and I am fearful of giving it up. I don’t really like waiting either…

I think that could be part of the problem with those who refuse to wear masks and think the virus is a hoax: that fear and unwillingness to admit that things may change. We like to think we are in control; our feelings of control are directly related to our importance.

God is changing things up. He is telling us, “I am the Lord of the sky and the sea. Call on me, and let me be your rest.” He also tells us over and over: “Do Not Fear.”

Turn off the news. Breathe in deeply. Say your gratitudes. Let your need for importance evaporate into the night breeze.

Let God have the control button.

Little Disasters Everywhere…

If 2020 did anything for us, it made us aware of how important home is.

Let’s face it, when we’re spending 24/7 in our rooms, apartments, town homes, cottages, or houses, they need to work and be pleasing more than ever.

Like most of the country world, we’ve had plenty of downtime this year. So in this stay-at-home time, we’ve worked on our home while staying in it. This makes for a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that the last room in the house is getting finished. The bad news is that the room has been emptied of everything that was in there and all that junk is now stashed in every crack and corner of the rest of the house. Every. Single. Thing.

The good news is that in these days of pandemic lockdown, no one will show up to this messy house unannounced. (And if they do, we can keep them outside…) The bad news is that there is barely room to find a place for two tired people to sit down and relax, let alone, eat meals.

The dining room table has become the sewing table.

Shoved behind the couch are assorted lamps, closet lights to be installed, and speakers that are still to be argued about discussed.

The bedroom hasn’t escaped either. The printer is tucked next to my nightstand, couch pillows are on the cedar chest, and an antique quilt hanger that belonged to Clara is just plain in the way while we decide if or how to repurpose it. Not to mention the ironing board that is stashed behind the curtains when not in use.

The sleeper sofa had its sleeper part taken out so it could be spray painted. Which is why the cushions are in the bedroom. The sleeper part is stored in Mr. H. C’s truck. Which has him wondering how he can go get wood for trimming the four doors and two windows… Two closets, an entry door from the outside, an entry doorway from the living room, and these two lovely new windows that were put in this summer:

The spray painted couch is now out on the back porch and the tv is in the living room. Everything is in disarray. Much like the world.

The comment today was “It looks like we are either moving in or moving out.” The good news and the bad news is that Thanksgiving is canceled this year so there’s no deadline to have all this under control.

Some days it’s okay and I’m energized to get stuff done. Some days I would just like to stay in bed with the covers pulled up over my eyes.

Yeah. Kind of like 2020. Is it over yet?