Many West Shore residents brew their own kombucha. (Pixabay photo)

Rickter Scale: Of mushrooms and creepy creatures

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column that appears in the Gazette

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

The bride is heading to Kelowna soon for a visit with her sister, and I have a growing fear of what may crawl out of the closet while she’s away.

Joan has been beyond secretive since she started brewing homemade kombucha, and my trepidation is starting to mushroom.

She got hooked on the stuff through a connection she made at the Sunriver Community Garden, which I believe her dealer is using as a front.

The bride always banishes me from the kitchen whenever she tends to that alien substance every 10 days, and keeps the large glass jar hidden in a canvas bag in case I inadvertently wander into the room.

The one thing she is adamant about is that I never see the once innocent little mushroom that has morphed into something I’m afraid to take a peek at.

When I asked my son about it recently over dinner while Joan and his partner were involved in conversation across the table, Chris paused thoughtfully for a few seconds before saying in a serious tone, “I really don’t think you should look at it, Dad.”

He waited until I was distracted with a slice of pizza, ironically layered with mushrooms, before muting his voice to ask Joan if she could hook him up with a starter kit.

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I’ve always been the kind of guy who relishes any form of fungi, whether piled atop a burger with a slice of Swiss cheese, lined up whole in neat rows next to a piece of barbecued meat, sliced up in a sauce or occasionally, back in the 1960s, ingested for their psychedelic powers.

What lurks in that jar, however, based on a photo online that made me cower, doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever eaten, or would want to. This is nothing like your mother’s mushrooms, or Money’s out of the can, for that matter.

A quick search on Wikipedia started off innocently enough. The substance, also know as Manchurian mushroom, is a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks “intended as functional beverages.”

While the description begins innocently enough, phrases like microbial populations and symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast – two words I usually associate with infections – crop up quickly. That sets the stage for the final notes; “exact origins are unknown,” “no scientific evidence to support the claim,” and my personal favourite, “rare adverse affects.”

I’ve always harboured an unhealthy skepticism of the latest food fads, although I did once barely survive a romantic relationship with a vegetarian. I even tried tofu during that dark chapter.

It wouldn’t surprise me if 10 years from now, a segment of our population seek medical assistance to treat prolonged gluten deficiency. I could quite contentedly survive on a steady diet of submarine sandwiches, burgers, pasta and pizza, all which, in my defense, include a variety of vegetables. The bride, however, has always followed a much healthier, disciplined approach to her daily diet. Or so I thought, until this kombucha thing reared its ugly floating head.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.


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