Friday, April 30, 2021

Three Kitchens

It's the end of April and time to look back at my kitchen adventures this month. I started the month in Evelyn’s kitchen in Fairfax, Virginia. In March when we were vaccinated against covid, we traveled to see our family there after the months of lock-down. Last month I documented what we did in Evelyn’s kitchen. As we were leaving, Evelyn packed up some spices for me to take home, as she had purchased them in large quantities. So the first image here shows an interesting Korean pepper blend going into a jar from her kitchen to my kitchen.

We returned home April 5, and spent a few weeks in our own kitchen. For the first time in well over a year we felt it safe to invite friends for dinner — only one other couple at a time, everybody immunized. I had to recall how to make a company dinner for four, rather than an ordinary dinner for two. This kept me busy, so I didn’t take too many photos. For the first dinner I served an appetizer of salad with smoked fish. For a main course,  roast chicken, rice pilaf, and brussels sprouts. All with Len’s good home-baked bread of course. Our guests brought a fruit tart for dessert. 

For the second dinner party, I cooked a whole fish, which
was covered with herbs and lettuce, and also had some in the cavity.
The cooked fish was also garnished with some sea scallops
in a sauce (no pics of the scallops).

Vegetables: broccoli and carrots.

 Both dinners were a lot of fun, We really liked visiting with our friends INDOORS!

Of course I cooked all our other meals too,
like this split pea soup with yogurt and sriracha.

I have brand-new refrigerator magnets this month.
I like to change them from time to time, just for fun.

The month is ending with a visit to my sister Elaine in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Elaine bakes the best apple pies!
She made us one with some rhubarb and strawberries too.

Elaine’s kitchen window.
For more kitchen news from other bloggers see Sherry’s blog: Sherry’s Pickings. This post belongs to mae sander and  is © 2021. If you are reading this elsewhere, it’s a pirate version!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Wabash Walls

While visiting Lafayette, I went to see the "Wabash Walls," a huge art project along Wabash street in a Lafayette neighborhood between two train tracks, partly residential and partly industrial. Murals have been painted on factories, on warehouses, on private homes, on church admin buildings, and on the street. I visited there in 2018, and for a couple of hours this week, but have seen and photographed only a very small number of the art works in this long-term project. Nevertheless, I have enough pictures for several blog posts! For more information about the Wabash Walls project, see this: "Mural Art Initiative."

An acrobat and a honey bear...

The honey bear again. Signed "Fnnch" -- this is the handle of a
controversial San Francisco graffiti artist, who has painted honey bears
on many walls. His work is not always well-liked there. (See this article).

A beautiful mural obscured by a parked trailer.


I really love the unicycle rider! I don't know who painted this.

"Escape Darkness -- Breaking Chains" a 2018 mural by Camer1.

The mural was under construction when we saw it in 2018.

A mural painted on a house.

A mural painted on a steel fabricating factory.

I'll post more of these murals eventually. All photos © 2021 mae sander.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Celery Bog

Today in West Lafayette: a walk in the Celery Bog, which was full of wild flowers and birds.

A Lesser Yellowlegs.

Coots (from earlier this week.)

A Canada goose on its nest.

Closer look at the goose.

The ground was carpeted with flowers.

Mystery duck: probably a hybrid. Note to commenters: markings are like a wood
duck, but the shape is very different. That's why it seems to be a hybrid.
Blog post © 2021 mae sander.


Monday, April 26, 2021

More Indiana Birds

 

Another day of birding near Lafayette, IN. A private 88-acre wildlife reserve out in the farmlands, 
known as "The Burn." (For more info, see this publication of the local Audubon Society: "Lye Creek Prairie Burn."

A Greater Yellowlegs.

A Song Sparrow

A Pectoral Sandpiper.

What we are drinking at Elaine’s house:
IZZE soda, clementine flavor. First soft drink in ages!

Note about birding: playing birdsongs attracts birds, but it’s disruptive in spring when bird calls signal other birds about territory and attracting mates. In the past it was an unusual human behavior, but the iPhone has made it controversial and all too common. As a result, it’s often forbidden, as indicated on the signpost in the first  image.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.



Indiana Birds

Vultures near the Wabash River. West Lafayette, Indiana.

 
Surf scoters at Bicentennial Park, Lafayette.

Barn swallows, tree swallows, and rough-winged swallows were
dive bombing the water.

The surf scoters again.


We are visiting Indiana for a long weekend, and have been looking at various birding sites. 
Photos © mae and len sander, 2021.



Sunday, April 25, 2021

Commemorating the Armenian Genocide of 1915

This weekend, President Biden named the Armenian genocide of 1915 correctly: a genocide. The Washington Post today published a background article on the subject. It begins: “The word genocide was coined in 1944 by a Polish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin, who lost 49 members of his Jewish family in the Holocaust.” And continues with a history of the horrifying events that began in April, 1915. From the article:

On April 24, 1915, the government arrested about 250 Armenian leaders and intellectuals. This is seen by many as the beginning of the massacre, and April 24 now marks Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. In the following months, most of those Armenian leaders were killed. The military forced Armenian villagers from their homes and on long, cruel marches to concentrations camps in what is now northern Syria and Iraq. Many of them died along the way; others died in the camps of starvation and thirst. Meanwhile, irregular forces and locals rounded up Armenians in their villages and slaughtered them. Historians estimate that between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians died.” (source)
A few years ago, I wrote about the most famous book about the Armenian genocide, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel, written in 1933. Today I decided to republish this blog post to celebrate the long-overdue recognition of this horror story. The Turkish government has succeeded in pretending that these events never happened, and in pressuring every American president to go along with their pretense. Now this is no longer the case.

 The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

“The most horrible thing that had been done was not that a whole people had been exterminated, but that a whole people, God’s children, had been dehumanized.” –  The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, 2012 edition, p. 727)

I found The Forty Days of Musa Dagh – which I had never before read in any form -- amazing in a number of ways. I devoured the dense, nearly 900 page novel in just a few days, unable to put it down. I read the newly-published translation of Franz Werfel’s 1933 masterpiece, which includes about 25% more narrative than the previous English version.

I should write a long review, including some research into Werfel himself, but right now I only want to cover a few generalities about the wonderful quality of the book.

First, I admired Werfel’s research into the 1915 massacre of Armenians by the Turks. I think the history of these events was already being suppressed by the late 1920s when Werfel began writing. His description of the ragged, starving, perishing Armenian masses of men, women, and children from the village of Zeitun was vivid. His descriptions of the Turkish authorities and their rationale for the genocide (not yet given a name) were overwhelming.

The day-by-day description of the people of seven Armenian villages near the Syrian coast who hid in the woods on the mountain Musa Dagh and resisted the deportation to nowhere being inflicted by the Turks is powerfully drawn. Each episode is based on true stories, particularly the survival of a few thousand villagers on Musa Dagh and their rescue by French troop ships.

Werfel maintained a remarkable balance between descriptions of collective suffering and of individual agony, so that the reader’s consciousness is drawn in both directions. He occasionally mentions acts of mercy by non-Armenians, but clearly shows that the moral bankruptcy of the Turkish leaders (quite a few directly taken from history) corrupted the common people, who are mostly depicted as looting and then resettling the villages whose inhabitants have been forced out. Also corrupted: the military, civil, and police authorities who directly deprived the Armenians of life and property.

On the political side, I kept thinking: how could Werfel write a Holocaust analogy before the Holocaust began? But I know the tragic answer: he was trying to warn of the terrible future that somehow he saw so clearly. Although he clearly admires the German Pastor Johannes Lepsius, another of the historical characters depicted in the book, he had no illusions about the meaning of the events to the mainstream German observers. While Lepsius begs everyone who will listen to act to save the Armenians, almost no one will listen to him; what aid he musters is too little too late. My very sad reaction to Werfel’s attempted warning was that the main learners who took a lesson from the massacre of the Armenians were the Nazis, not the humanitarians and not any future victims.

On the novelistic side, I was also impressed by the author’s choice of central characters, the French-educated Gabriel Bagradian. While the history is powerful, I thin Werfel keeps the reader’s attention through the depiction of Bagradian, his family, his determination to save his fellow Armenians, and his close relationships. Bagradian’s conflicts between his self-interest and his loyalty to his people, his developing identity from identification with France and Europe to embracing of an Armenian identity, his developing leadership in military and political affairs, and his tragic ending create a perfect story against which Werfel presents the historical themes.
Blog post and review © 2012 and 2021 mae sander.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Music

In Keiichiro Hirano's novel At the End of the Matinee, the author seems to get inside the head of a musician, specifically a very skilled classical guitarist named Satoshi Makino. Communicating what music means to an accomplished performer is a challenging thing to do. As I read the passages about Makino's musical sense, I felt the way I do when natural history writers talk about how a human can’t get into the head of another species like a swan that can fly and feels no cold in icy water, or a songbird that can remember where it hid some hundreds of seeds and nuts for winter, or a bat that hears shapes and obstacles to its flight. 

Creating music is simply not in my head. So I have collected some of Hirano's quotes that struck me. Consider this paragraph:

"Musical depth and breadth. Richness that rewarded repeated hearings and a sudden radiance that captivated listeners the very first time. Relief from humankind’s most pressing psychological afflictions and a friendly invitation to capriciousness. Spiritual liberation and day-to-day solace. Maintaining these contradictory impulses, an obsession of contemporary musicians, was a task that Makino had set himself over the past few years. In that regard he was achieving more than any other guitarist. His pride accepted this, and yet he felt an obscure, overpowering anxiety." (p. 33). 

A woman, Yoko, who falls in love with him reacts to his gift this way:

“His gift is like . . . a paper airplane that God folded and let fly just for fun. It appeared high in the heavens one day and just keeps on going, flying and flying and never falling to earth. The line it traces is a thing of beauty.” (p. 44). 

Makino expresses his thoughts on Bach:

“I always wonder, How well do I really understand Bach, the core of European music? When I play a period instrument, I feel it all the more. To reach the understanding you just came to as easily as if you were jumping over a puddle, I’d have to spend years building a bridge over a deep valley. That’s what I can’t help admiring. That cultural depth, for lack of a better word.... After nineteenth-century Romanticism, the emotional or sensory aspects of music are more approachable, but so much in Bach transcends Bach the man. The existence of God, the lineage of the Bach family . . .” (p. 80). 

Or his words to the staff of his recording studio, who want him to rush his preparation for a performance after he had been away from playing for a number of months:

“If I were a jazz guitarist, say, someone who ad-libbed onstage, it’d be different. But I’m from the world of classical music. I can’t make adjustments while I’m playing. A figure skater having an off day can downgrade his performance from a triple axel to a double, but I can’t do anything like that. You’ve got to understand.” (p. 213). 

And during a performance of great importance to him:

"His music posed questions bursting with awe and originality, echoed by responses containing mystical magnitude, affirmation, and consolation." (p. 298).

 At the End of the Matinee is an interesting novel: mostly it's a love story, with several complex and very thoughtful individuals at its center -- mainly the guitarist Makino and Yoko, the love of his life. There are many conversations between the two of them and also with several other important characters, conversations that are often described in terms of their interior thoughts rather than by quoting exactly what was said. As a result, it's a very intense emotional novel, maybe a little hard to take.

The contemporary world from 2007 until 2012, the time of the book's action, is a major part of the interior thoughts of the main characters. Important themes in the book: the ongoing war in Iraq, memory of the brutal wars of the twentieth century, the tragedy of refugees and those who were murdered by one government or another, and the brutal fear after the Japanese earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown. Their depressing and threatening nature permeates the book.

This is the second book I've read in amazon.com's free offer of international books: At the End of the Matinee has a lot of appeal in several ways. It's hard to read, but pretty much worth the effort. 

This review © 2021 mae sander.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

April Snow

A few days ago, the azalea in our front garden was blooming splendidly.

A light snow fell...
By morning, the blossoms were smothered.

And as the snow melted,
almost all the blossoms fell to the ground.

Magnolias


They were so beautiful!

... but the snow fell.

As the snow melted, the petals turned brown.


A snowy morning at 6:30 AM.
Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

“The Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury”

Marc Levy is a best-selling French novelist. This is the first of his books that I have read. I was disappointed for the same reason that very popular historical fiction often disappoints me: it does too good a job of meeting my expectations. As a result, books like this don't seem to offer any new insights about its historic time and place, and often portray their characters with 21st century social and cultural attitudes.  

The Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury begins in London  in 1950, just after the war. Most readers would have some expectations about this setting: the neighborhoods that are not yet restored after the severe bombings, the lives that are affected by loss of loved-ones, the shortages and rationing of food and clothing that are still in effect, and the feeling among Londoners that the rest of the world is healing more quickly. These are cliches. And the author relies far too much on these cliches: it’s too predictable. Amidst these conditions, Alice Pendelbury, the main character, lives in a studio apartment all alone. She has a few friends and no family: they died in the bombing. 

On page 15, a fortune-teller discerns a very unexpected future for Alice. Because of her visceral reaction to the fortune-teller’s prediction, Alice soon afterwards travels to Istanbul with her next-door neighbor. The rest of the novel is a quest to discover the truth of the prediction. It’s a long quest, which many readers probably find quite suspenseful and enjoyable, but again, I found it a bit too full of cliches. (I’ll forgo presenting plot details since you might want to read it and find out for yourself.)

All in all, I found Alice’s story to be a kind of over-the-top melodrama. The descriptions of Istanbul seemed mostly the sort of thing that you could find in a 1950s guidebook. Alice’s air travel from London to Istanbul was presented with all the expected details from the early days of commercial plane travel. On arrival, Alice and her travel companion checked into the Pera Palace Hotel — which was the major high-end place for famous European visitors from early in the twentieth century until the end of World War II. By 1950 when the novel takes place it was actually a bit run down because of political choices made by the Turkish government (its Greek owners were expelled and it was given to a native/Moslem Turk), but the decline doesn’t seem have happened in the book. And on and on.

There were also some questionable details — small ones but they bothered me. For example, Alice’s traveling companion brings her a beautiful evening gown to wear to an event at the British Embassy. She says it’s lovely and he says:  

“It’s a French model called the ‘New Look.’ They might not be much at the art of war, but I have to admit that the French have an undeniable genius for dressing women ... .”  

Remember, the novel is set in the year 1950. Dior’s “New Look” debuted in Paris in 1947 and was a sensation, noted throughout the world. To show you how famous this was: the term “New Look” was coined by Life magazine. So the characters’ unfamiliarity with the style by 1950 is a bit off. This is a detail, but the kind of detail that disrupts my trust in a a historical novel.

Alice Pendelbury’s distinguishing feature was her acute sense of smell:

“Alice had a rare gift: she was a ‘nose.’ Her sense of smell was so acute that she could distinguish and memorize the slightest odor. She spent her days alone, bent over the long wooden table in her flat, blending different essences to obtain combinations that might one day become a perfume. Every month she made the rounds of the London perfume shops, offering them her new creations.” (p. 6)

Throughout the book Alice is highly aware of aromas and the way they trigger her memories. She seeks out unusual combinations of fragrance that create a characteristic ambience, and she designs perfumes and other aromatic products. Normally, I would find this a very compelling theme in a novel. Unfortunately, I thought that like many things here, the depiction of smells and the memories they elicited was presented in a formulaic and mechanical way. Again, I found this a source of disappointment.

Similarly, the descriptions of food in this novel seem done by rote. The scarce groceries in London, the cups of coffee, the Turkish breakfasts, and the fine restaurants were all described in a way that I found too predictable, too superficial, and  too close to what I’ve read in many other accounts of travel. I was also a little skeptical about the accuracy: for example, eggs, meat, and bacon were rationed until 1954, but the characters seem to find at least some of them in the shops. Maybe they had ration cards or something for the small quantities they bought; this wasn’t mentioned and again is only a detail.

I’m sure my reactions to this novel are eccentric: many readers obviously find this author very compelling. Sorry to be a malcontent. This book was one of 10 free books offered on Kindle this month. The author was on my “maybe read” list so I went for it. I hope I more throughly enjoy the others I chose.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

“The Book of Eels”


Patrik Svensson’s work The Book of Eels is one of those wonderful meditations that has a very narrow focus on a single topic, but actually covers a whole world of topics. Eel fishing played a big role in the author’s childhood. The study of eels, which he documents in a very interesting way, has been a huge challenge to science. And eels, it seems, may be among the most endangered of species on earth. 

“There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow,” said Hamlet. Svensson makes his readers feel this way about eels. So it’s a remarkable book: also very popular.

Certain stages of the life cycle of the eel have eluded scientific observers. Svensson describes the scientists who tried, and failed, to find the exact location of eel spawning grounds, to observe the earliest stages of eel life, or to obtain fully mature, breeding eels. And thus he considers the world of science and scientific endeavor. He begins with Aristotle, the first scientist, who wrote about eels among many things. Svensson continues with sketches of the work of a number of others who sought to understand eel behavior, including quite recent efforts. Beyond science, Svensson includes a detailed description of descriptions of eels in several works of literature, where they can become a powerful metaphor or symbol.

Svensson compares Swedish traditional methods to eel fishing in other times and places. The constantly diminishing eel populations of his own region, and many other regions, lead the author to a discussion of how eels are so severely endangered that they may soon go extinct — and this thought is embedded in consideration of the whole endangered world today. Svensson does all this seamlessly. As I read I never felt as if the transition from the tiny specific topic to the broader view was forced in any way.

On the personal level, Svensson describes the way that he and his father fished for eels throughout his childhood and youth, and his father loved to eat them cooked in a variety of ways -- though Svensson himself was not as fond of them. Through this personal example, he illustrates many thoughts about his life. The father's way of eel fishing belongs to the traditions of eel fishing history in his native region: Sk√•ne, SwedenThe eel and these traditions provide a powerful connection to his father, a road-builder, especially after he, the son, becomes a university-educated writer and very different from his family. Finally, as he describes his father’s death, the book becomes a meditation on death itself, on all that we cannot understand.

Eels are fascinating and mysterious. Scientists have searched in vain in the Sargasso Sea where their breeding grounds are thought to be located, but have never found exactly where the eggs are laid and hatched. The eel becomes for Svensson an embodiment of the uncanny, of the things that can’t be understood, and that don’t fit one’s ordinary definition of living reality. 
“THERE ARE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT FORCE YOU TO CHOOSE WHAT TO believe, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been the kind of person who chooses to believe what people consider verifiable, science over religion, the rational over the transcendental. But the eel makes that difficult. For anyone who has seen an eel die and then come back to life, rationality isn’t enough. Almost everything can be explained; we can discuss different processes of oxygenation and metabolism or the eel’s protective secretion or its highly adapted gills. But on the other hand, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’m a witness. An eel can die and live once again. ‘They’re odd, eels,’ Dad would say. And he always seemed mildly delighted...” (p. 192)
Eels have provided food for many people who live near the streams and rivers where they live; Svensson documents many eel fishing and culinary traditions. Though their popularity has declined in Europe and in the US in the past century, they were once very important. For example, did you know that eels were a critical source of nutrition during the near-starvation year of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts? That their Indian guide (incorrectly known as Squanto) showed them how to fish for eels? 
"For some reason, this gift from God to the early pilgrims has been all but erased from the grand narrative. The story of the colonization of North America is full of myths and legends, but the story of the eel isn’t one of them. On Thanksgiving, Americans eat turkey, not eel, and other animals—buffalo, eagles, horses—have been the ones to shoulder the symbolic weight of the patriotic narrative of the United States of America." (p. 104).
By now, eels are so endangered that it’s objectionable to eat them, though I’ve always liked the eel sushi that is served at many Japanese restaurants (but would be reluctant to eat it any more); I believe I also once ate eel in the Loire region of France, where it is also fished. One passage about eating eels especially interested me; it’s about the very young eels who will later transform into the more familiar snake-like fish. They are called glass eels, and in places where they are found, they are a delicacy:
“In Italy, glass eels used to be caught in the Arno River in the west and around Comacchio in the east. There the preferred way of serving them was boiled in tomato sauce with a sprinkle of parmesan. ...These days, however, it’s a dying tradition. As the number of glass eels wandering up Europe’s rivers has plummeted, the fishing industry built around them has also ceased to exist.” (p. 90)
Eel restaurant sign, Comacchio, Italy. (Source)

Here’s why I loved this passage: we once stayed in a hotel in the vicinity of Comacchio, and we went to a highly recommended restaurant where I remember eating a dish of glass eels (though I thought they had said grass eels and just found out that this was wrong). The eels on my plate were indeed very small and exotic, but I liked the dish. I don’t think in fact that they were in tomato sauce. It was long ago, before I carried a camera with me at all times, so I have no tangible evidence of this meal, only an indistinct memory. As eels become more and more endangered, it’s likely that this dish will no longer be prepared, and in any case it’s become very expensive, so I doubt if I will ever taste it again.

To quote another poet besides Shakespeare (after all, it’s National Poetry Month) —

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour” — by William Blake

Blog post © 2021 mae sander. 


 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Kefir

Kefir used to be an exotic drink, but it's now available in most supermarkets, at least where I shop. It was popularized in the US by the Lifeway company, beginning in 1986, but now is made by a number of brands. Kefir's origins are in Russia and several other countries in the East (for more history see the Wikipedia article).

For some time, Len and I have been enjoying this yogurt-like beverage. We also like other fermented milk products such as yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, and many types of cheese -- a large family of foods that vary widely in taste and in how they are used in many different recipes. 

Micro-organisms, including yeast and lacto-bacillus, promote the fermentation that creates these distinctive products. These organisms have been found to confer at least some health benefits on people who consume them in sufficient quantities. Kefir, which is very rich in these organisms, is especially healthful.

The yeasts and bacteria in the cultures for each type of fermented dairy product are related to one-another, but not all the same. The processes for making them, such as the temperature and length of time for fermentation, also differ among the products, whether at home or in an industrial setting. Like sourdough starters for fermenting bread, you can buy commercial starters for home-made cultured milk products.

SCOBY is the name for these starter cultures. I thought it was a cute pet name but it's actually an acronym: "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast." When you make yogurt or sour cream, you can save out some of the product to use as the starter for the next batch. Kefir is a little different.

The starter for traditional kefir-making, which is what you would use if you wanted to make it at home for yourself, is made up of a cluster of fermentation-starter grains that are described as looking like cauliflower.  

Kefir "grains" shown with scale.
Source: Wikipedia.

Here is a highly technical description of kefir and kefir grains:
"Kefir is a complex fermented dairy product created through the symbiotic fermentation of milk by lactic acid bacteria and yeasts contained within an exopolysaccharide and protein complex called a kefir grain. ... The beverage itself typically has a slightly viscous texture with tart and acidic flavor, low levels of alcohol, and in some cases slight carbonation. Kefir is traditionally made with cow’s milk but it can be made with milk from other sources such as goat, sheep, buffalo, or soy milk. One of the features that distinguish kefir from many other fermented dairy products is the requirement for the presence of a kefir grain in fermentation and the presence and importance of a large population of yeasts. The aforementioned kefir grains are microbially derived protein and polysaccharide matrices that contain a community of bacterial and fungal species that are essential to kefir fermentation. Traditionally, fermentation was initiated through the addition of kefir grains, which originally formed during the fermentation of milk, to unfermented milk in a sheep or goat skin bag. Commercial, industrial-scale production rarely utilizes kefir grains for fermentation, but rather uses starter cultures of microbes that have been isolated from kefir or kefir grains in order to provide more consistent products." (quote from: The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics of the Fermented Beverage Kefir.)
Making kefir at home appears to be a bit challenging. Theoretically when you are using kefir grains to make the product, you can retrieve some of the grains each time you make a new batch, but it's difficult to do so consistently. However, some people find it less difficult and demanding than others. 

In order to keep kefir grains going, you could find it necessary to make new kefir every day. This might be more than you want, but if you don’t do it often enough, the grains can become less effective. Thus you might need to purchase starter for kefir more often than you would purchase the starter for yogurt. Alternately, there are freeze-dried kefir starters available that may be easier to use. I have never made kefir, so I can't offer much help with this.

I'll just mention that appropriate SCOBYs are used to make fermented foods from other liquids as well as from dairy milk. For example, kombucha, soy-milk yogurt or kefir, and water kefir are non-dairy fermented foods from similar cultures.

Fermented milk products like yogurt and kefir are familiar in America today. Though very little known here before the 1960s, beginning with yogurt they have become steadily more popular over the years. I enjoy drinking kefir (sometimes with sugar) or eating it with granola or fruit. Over the years, I've also tried a number of recipes using kefir, including chocolate cake and frosting, "buttermilk" brined chicken, sourdough-discard pancakes, kefir-based salad dressings, kefir smoothies, and more. Kefir is considered a good substitute for buttermilk, and recently I have used it in baking when buttermilk is called for. The website Serious Eats kitchen-tested several buttermilk substitutes for making biscuits, and found that kefir was by far the best (link -- kefir is the last one discussed in the article). My mother's favorite buttermilk sub was milk + lemon juice -- this popular choice was rated as the worst option by Serious Eats.

Once again, I'm sharing my thoughts on a beverage with the bloggers who join Elizabeth at the blog Altered Book Lover each week. This blog post is copyright © 2021 by mae's food blog.