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A Major Minor Miracle

February 26, 2015

Aperitvi, Happy Hour, is a strong social custom in Italy.  The man and I enjoy reconnecting at the end of the day over a glass and some nibbles, but since I don’t like beer or wine and anything stronger gives me a migraine, I drink kefir.  Because I am opposed to the dairy industry, I make water kefir at home.  A fortunate choice you will later realize.

The basic process begins with a starter called a SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria & yeast) that eats sugar and provides probiotics and carbonation to the beverage.  The SCOBY lives in a covered pitcher and every few days I pour off its water, now water kefir, and bottle it with some fruit juice for secondary fermentation.  Then SCOBY gets new sugar water and some minerals.  While the bottled kefir continues to ferment, the resealable flip top bottle contains the carbon dioxide the SCOBY exhales (or some biological process like that), thus naturally carbonating the beverage.

My current SCOBY has had a very busy year.  He’s taken several naps in the fridge while we went away for a week or two or three.  When we went Home for seven weeks, he had to be dehydrated and wait in suspended animation for my return.  Which he did like a champ.  We’re back on schedule and the kefir is good.  Except it’s been kind of flat.  I’ve watched the tiny bubbles rising in the bottles, but nothing more than a gentle pop when I opened them.  The fact that I could see the bubbles is probably a clue.  That gas is supposed to remain in suspension until the pressure is released.  A soda bottle doesn’t sit there quietly making bubbles with its cap on.  So I suspected the seals on these particular bottles weren’t doing the job.  Italian houses are full of bottles; for wine, for limoncello, for olive oil, for vinegar, for grappa, because so many people do their own of all of these.  Maybe they were for wine to let the gas out.  There is a fizzy red wine, probably discovered when someone put their grape juice in the wrong bottle.  So I went digging around the kitchen to find some bottles with better seals.

Normally, I have an open bottle in the fridge and a couple waiting on the counter.  But the counter was looking crowded.  I had the brilliant idea to put them on top of a cabinet in Kiwi’s apartment instead (it’s also our apartment’s half bath, but don’t tell her).  High storage is generally the man’s domain.  I’m satisfied with the low cabinets, under-the-bed, and the bottom drawers.  So I never even think of the useful space which I can’t reach without a step-stool.  But the man doesn’t go in Kiwi’s apartment, so Bob’s my uncle.  I put two bottles on high, even somewhat decoratively with a candle between them, on Sunday.

Tuesday morning, I awoke to the sound of shattering glass.  I thought that bloody French door in the kitchen had finally gone.  It’s made of the thinnest glass and installed only loosely such that the glass rattles brittlely (it’s a word, I tell you, I looked it up, rhymes with Italy) in the frame which shakes lamely on its hinges whenever the Navy is testing explosive in the bay.  I hate that door… mostly because I am pathologically unnerved by broken glass and it just sits there threatening me, waiting . . .  But it wasn’t the kitchen door.  The man was just stepping in from the other porch ~yes, we eat breakfast on the balcony, overlooking the Mediterranean, sipping fine Italian coffee; but I digress~  in time to see shards sparkling down through the spray and splatter of a liter of sugar water.  All over Kiwi’s apartment.

He came to tell me what it was, and that it wasn’t him.  I went to look;  it was a disaster, a sharp, splintery, runny, sticky, personally-horrifying disaster.  Knowing how broken glass affects me, I assiduously avoid breaking it.  I had never confronted such a mess, didn’t even know where to begin.  It actually crossed my mind to just close the door and never use that room again.  I’m usually more practical than that, so my better nature won out, and I began to mop my way in.  Within ten minutes, I was bleeding.  The sight of blood spreading out in a pool of water is also no way to start the day, especially when the blood is mine.  I picked up the “big” pieces, but aside from the bottle neck, there weren’t any bigger than the palm of my hand.  The man says the thing exploded like a shrapnel grenade.  I had definitely chosen the wrong bottle.  It was square, not as strong as round to begin with, and probably intended for olive oil.  Failure mode duly noted.  From now on, I will bottle in proper beer bottles from the back stock of LBC, Little Black Cat / Lewis Brewing Consortium / Lerici Beer Company.

It’s been ages since I’ve had a physical-labor all-day sort of job.  But it had to be done.  The sticky was drying and getting worse.  Every surface, every item, every thing had to be wiped down.  So I kept going.  It took all day until it was time to leave for an appointment and dinner.  And still it isn’t finished. The washing machine knob is suspiciously stiff now.  The sliding door of the medicine chest really just doesn’t.  When I leaned my weary back against the wall, it stuck.  No, it’s not finished yet.

But this is when I began to appreciate all the ways it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  There was nothing else that day I needed to be doing.  Dinner out was already planned.  No one was in the room when it blew.  It didn’t happen when no one was home at all and Kiwi would have tried to navigate the disaster to reach her sandbox (which was mercifully protected under the counter) … or eat from her dish, which was not.  That is a thought I wish never to be having.

Then, later, standing in the kitchen, I looked at where the bottles had always sat.  It would have been exponentially worse:  open shelving chock full of containers and things and stuff, wooden shelving, in fact, and inconveniently absorbent, too; a much larger room to clean with so many more nooks and crannies, just waiting to draw bugs in the spring; another bottle would have been against it, a glass jar of kibble next to that ~ more casualties, more sneaky shards of glass everywhere.

The bottle that failed so catastrophically was the first one I’d ever thought to put anywhere else.  And up high, where I don’t keep things?  Hardly a thought I would have had for myself.  I know God takes care of me.  I am grateful for His love, even when I need to change my perspective to see it.  This is probably a lesson for the future as well.  Look for His hand, even when disaster strikes.  It may be shielding me from so much worse.

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