Monday, September 24, 2012

New Discoveries

This weekend, Michael and I went with my brother-in-law Glenn (know to the family as 'Bub') to the Mother Earth News Festival, held at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. While Michael and Bub went to a workshop on homestead butchering, I went to workshops on making winter salads and on supplementing homestead and farm incomes by blogging. In the Mother Earth News Bookstore, a temporary area set up to showcase the authors associated with the festival, I picked up food activist Sandor Katz's book The Art of Fermentation. See, Friday a week ago, I went to visit writer Karen Lillis. We ate at the always excellent Red Oak Cafe, in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. Karen, who had started a special diet, picked up a bottle of Kombucha tea, a fermented beverage with probiotic cultures. I had read about Kombucha some years ago, learning that kids were picking it up because of its alcohol content. Karen said they've since cranked the alcochol content down, as the bottles had been pulled from store shelves because of it.
The morning I went in to see Karen, I had woken up with a terrible headache, not improved by the usual traffic nonsense I encounter coming in via the tunnels. Side Story: I am really fortunate not to have been shoved from my car into someone else's by a garbage truck that couldn't stop outside the Carnegie, PA exit this past Tuesday, when I went in to visit my folks. Someone was looking out for me, and I am very grateful for it. It was raining, and a driver in a silver car cut me off by diving into the two-car length between myself and the car in front of me (having learned back in 2010 on the Veterans Memorial Bridge that wet roads are usually slick roads, I usually leave the extra space, which most people interpret as open room for lane merging). I had to brake because they were suddenly braking and a moment after I did, I heard  brakes squealing behind me...big air brakes. I looked in a my rear view, and I saw a garbage truck coming for me, which I will say scared the living hell out of me. There was nowhere for me to go because everyone in front of me was stopped and there was not enough shoulder or left-hand lane room. Again, someone was definitely looking out for me because the garbage truck did a 270 (not a complete 360, but more than a 180) in the process of trying to stop. For a moment, I was afraid he would tip over, but thankfully, he didn't. I don't know if anyone behind him hit him. I was just fear-fuelled energy at that point. He had stopped both lanes of traffic, and because of this, I got into the left hand lane and got out of there. I was shaking the whole way into the city and had to 'take myself in hand' not to start freaking out from the adrenaline. Experiences like that remind you of what's most important. When I woke up the next morning beside Michael, I remember feeling really happy.  And now, back to main story: Karen and I sat down and started catching up. My head was still throbbing a little, but I could function. I opened the Kombucha and started to drink it,and within 15 minutes, my headache had lifted. By the time we were done with lunch, it was gone. I couldn't believe it. I'd had the headache for two days, and it had waxed and waned in intensity, so I'm not entirely sure if the Kombucha was to credit for its passing or if there were some other factor involved. Yet on my way out of Red Oak, I picked up another bottle. When I found it was something I could make at home, I figured sign me up! And so, I purchased Katz's book. So far, it's a wonderful read, both informative and cautious, as it offers relevant cultural information alongside receipes and descriptions of 'elixir' pros and cons (such as the problems associated with ascribing too significant a healing property to certain fermented products or the dangers of bottling sweet fermented beverages, which can quickly become explosive when capped). I'll be purchasing a 'mother' (SCOBY culture) soon, and I'll track the Kombucha-making process on our farm blog (
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Another new discovery I've made is the work of Craig Thompson, whose book Blankets I found in Barnes and Noble's graphic novels section while Michael and I were waiting to get into a movie. It's nothing short of amazing. More on this soon....

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