Friday, April 6, 2007

I've Taken a Scunner....

I'm an armchair linguist. Always have been. I don't talk about it much, because most people start glazing over when I start waxing enthusiastic over a curious linguistic detail. Becoming a certified interpreter of American Sign Language just fed that passion. My zeal for a turn of phrase or expression and my curiosity for how it came into use isn't limited just to ASL. I look for it in all the books I read and I gravitate to authors who give me windows into how other people and cultures use language. Which is probably why I love British Cozy mysteries, especially those set in the Highlands of Scotland.

When I first read the word "scunner," I could extrapolate from the context what it generally meant, but I looked it up to see if the helpful linguist would tell me how it was derived. Unfortunately, no, but it did confirm that it meant "to take a disgust to; object of loathing." Just so. I've taken a scunner to the ethics of some of the alternative health community. Particularly having to do with supplements and pricing. Yeah, that ugly topic of money.

Becoming a Breatharian ain't cheap. Unless you're one who carries it to its "purist" form. And there are some out there who do attempt it, I've discovered. I remember when I first staggered out of a health food store in sticker shock. Don't get me wrong. As I've adjusted, I find I've no quarrel with the home town health food store that works very hard to provide alternative foods in a very tight market. I don't even have a quarrel--well, not much anyway--with some of the popular alternative brands. I did buy a grain mill because rice can be as low as .25 a pound, which beats $2.50 a pound for the flour--sorry, Bob!--by a long stripe and is much easier on the Breatharian budget. Still, I understand why alternative stuff will cost more, given special handling, processing, more expensive ingredients, what have you. I grok profit margin. But some of this stuff approaches usurious and reeks of advantaging. Don't get me started on the website that sells common g/f flours for $10-30 a pound. Nope. Won't go there. But they're easy to blow off because what they sell is so readily found elsewhere for less. What really fashed me, for some reason, was the cost of supplements promising to restore digestive health. Those probiotic ones. You know. The magic dirt pills that cost $60 a bottle. Don't mistake me, these pills actually worked for least they did while they were still saying that they were gluten free. It happened when I was evaluating how long I could afford to keep buying these, knowing that IselleverysupplementunderthesunHerb wasn't going to continue those deep pocket discounts forever (they didn't!), but wanting to get my children to a point of intestinal integrity where they would stop developing new reactions. Mulling over the label and dosing suggestions, I found the maintenance dose: "one a day for life." At $60 a bottle. Havers.

That was when I really started digging in to changing our diets, not just as an immediate exigency, but as a way of life. When we first started down this IgG trail, I was instructed that we had a three to four month load to haul....six months max and then we'd be home free. After that time frame elapsed and the children were becoming worse and not better, I had to re-evaluate. This was going to be a marathon, not a sprint and I needed to pace myself accordingly. And thon wee scunner wanting $60 per from me for life just fueled my drive to find other answers. We take supplements to give our bodies what we can't or aren't getting from our diets. Since I was convinced that probiotics were important to recovery, I started looking for dietary sources of probiotics. Real probiotics. Life probiotics. I found kefir.

For those to whom kefir is a new word, may I refer you to Dom Anfiteatro, the guru who has the most complete handling of the subject I've found. Even Wikipedia links to his site. To be brief, kefir is made by adding the bacteria-charged organism referred to as "kefir grains," which look like rubbery, overcooked cauliflower, to milk and letting them sit for 24 hours or so. The grains themselves feed on the lactose and impart the broadest imaginable spectrum of probiotic bacteria. They inspire such passion and enthusiasm in devotees that there are multiple yahoogroup lists--high traffic ones at that--on the subject. Go poke around there. Since grains propagate in milk and usually beyond any individual's need, these folk are usually very willing to share their bounty, some for just the cost of postage.

Then there are the Breatharians who can't do dairy.

Yes, I know. There are people who, being unable to tolerate grocery store milk, will be able to tolerate raw, organic goat's milk when kefirred sufficiently. Unfortunately, that advantage isn't universal. I tried doing just that with my children for a couple of months and consequently set the healing process back and entire year. An entire grim, austere year. A word to the wise: kefir may eat lactose, but it doesn't eat casein. So casein sensitive folk, tread carefully. Besides, while kefir is a great and easy source of live probiotics, my research and reading has led me to the understanding that all cultures have fermented foods, and not a few among vegetables and roots. So fermented dairy doesn't hold the corner on microbial magic.

What I've found, from experience, is that the grains, while they won't survive and reproduce in media other than milk, they will impart their probiotic value to whatever media they are in until they eventually peter out and die. It appears that it really doesn't matter what the medium is, you'll get some probiotic benefit from putting kefir grains in it. Since we were also grain-free, nut-free, almost everything free at that time, coconut milk made the most sense for us from a nutritional stand point. Making kefir is very simple and, while requiring routine, is much less demanding than children, a spouse, or even a pet. If possible, it would be advisable to keep a percentage of grains back to store in dairy milk, propagating for future drafting into the service of non-dairy kefir.

Non-Dairy Kefir

Pick your media, be it coconut, rice milk, nut milk, fruit juice

1 tablespoon of grains
1 cup of media
1 jar with non-metallic lid
24 hours

Drop the grains into the jar of liquid of choice, shake gently and leave on counter for 24 hours. Strain grains out and dump into fresh liquid. Lather, rinse, repeat. Figuratively, that is. Flavor/sweeten liquid to preferences, given that it will be on the sour side and drink.



FarmSchooler said...

Just a note....I was talking to Joan Grinzi at Price-Pottenger last week and she made the comment that Dr Price never said ALL cultures used fermented foods. Thats actually a Sally Fallon (NT) thing. Sally studied in France as I understand it....explained in detail in NT....though I havnt gone to review since talking to Joan. Fermented foods ARE great, but they are not universal....ONLY animal protein was universal in those with good dental health....according to WAP.

Anonymous said...

Y'know, sometimes ready acronyms is like trying to read Greek without training...or understand someone's signing who's makes up their own signals. Most of that first comment is lost on me.

Are you working on your blog tonight? This month came in as one long post, without comments showing.

Fermented foods...a Korean friend...Deutch linage...nothing about Kimchi or sauerkraut?

Am I missing something yet to be discovered?

It's SUPER easy to make! Much like starting sourdough starter. Not maintaining it, just starting it!


Anonymous said...

Oh yes. Expensive dirt. I know it well. I could talk hours about the owner, the product, the changes, the inconsistencies on gluten-free labeling, not to mention typos on the label!

I'm glad someone else found them helpful too.

It's not $60 a month. It's $60 a month per person. You do the math.


Of course, theres always Bio-K...expensive little yogurts, availabe dairy free.

There's so many kefir-ish products available now, that a post may be necessary to explore them all. SNL's spoof on Jamie Lee Curtis' commericals are priceless!


Anonymous said...

I may have asked you this already but - the kefir grains don't cross contaminate casein (or other yuckies) into the non-dairy kefir? Do you rinse the grains? Do you throw out the first batch after they are transfered into the coconut milk?
I've been making coconut kefir interspersed with my dairy kefir and I LOVE IT! It sweetens my morning smoothies without having to add any honey or maple syurp at all, even if I just add a quarter cup to a pint of fruit and dairy kefir.

Loztnausten said...

Alyss, that's a very individualistic situation. I was able to rinse the grains enough to where my family wouldn't react to them. But we don't have IgE reactions to dairy. A friend with whom I shared some grains tried this for her IgE positive son and he showed mild reactions when he would drink it, even after a few weeks of drinking coconut milk kefir with these thoroughly rinsed grains. There remains unanswered the question of if he could tolerate water kefir grains, so I don't know if he was reacting to residual milk proteins or if he had chemical reaction to the ferment. Unfortunately, this isn't a "one size fits all" solution, but the value of kefir is such that it would be worth consideration.

I rinse my grains completely, probing in the folds and crannies for any lurking dairy solids and then use them immediately. I know of some folks who will discard the liquid (some have used sugar water to avoid throwing out expensive coconut milk) for a few weeks before beginning to drink the coconut milk kefir they produce.

But even Tool Guy, who can do dairy, thinks that coconut milk kefir is totally decadent. :)

Alyss said...

I linked to this post in my blog... oh yeah, I have a blog now :)

Loztnausten said...

Woohoo! Welcome to bloggin' Alyss! :)

Love the Bento box lunches! They look absolutely delicious. So...when are you gonna come and make lunch for me? ;)

Lauren :) said...

LZ, I would love you to check out this discussion on MDC:

We are talking about kefir grains, and my go-to-for-all-probiotic-food-info-mama just said that milk kefir GRAINS contain A2 casien, and that I probably have been contaminating my juice kefir by using (well rinsed) milk grains in it. AHHHH! Just thought you'd be interested in this! (And might have some insight too!)

Loztnausten said...

Well, any time there's contact between two substances, there always remains the possibility of leaving behind trace contaminants. I certainly wouldn't say that it isn't possible. I've been told that it was "impossible" for the Hobbits to react to pharmaceutical grade citric acid. And yet they do.

A mom of my acquaintance with a child who has milk IgE allergies cannot give him coconut milk kefir fermented with dairy grains as it causes red cheeks, one of his symptoms. The Hobbits have, for eight years, been unable to have casein of any sort, but they don't react to anything fermented with well-rinsed grains.

Folks with celiac are continually comparing notes as to what is "safe" and what is not and I've observed that the margin of safety varies wildly between individuals. I suppose the same kind of dynamic applies here.

Thanks so much for posting about the discussion! I would want everyone to be as well-informed as possible when making these kinds of decisions.

dhan said...

whether the difference between kefir and yogurt?
Which is better between them?
It looks very tasty

Loztnausten said...

To my taste buds, the main difference is texture: yogurt is firm and kefir is liquid. Kefir can be fermented to a milder flavor like yogurt or a sharper flavor like cheddar's all in the temperature and length of the ferment.

Delicious stuff!