Yesterday, Wednesday, no school and a glorious day. A bike ride around Reminiac seemed the perfect way to spend the afternoon. The latest ‘game’ is that Iona has to try and get us hopelessly lost (very easy as the country lanes all look the same!) and Joe has to get us home!
After a full afternoon of cycling, we were on the home straight whizzing past Guillaume’s farm when I saw him. I stopped.
‘Bonjour, Nicole. Do you have five minutes? Madeline has received some bad news and could do with a visitor.’
‘Of course.’ I replied, leaning my bike against the corrugated shed.
We don’t see much of Madeline. She is a bit strange, slightly hippyish. She always wears a hat. You will often see Madeline with her basket collecting things, berries, or leaves from ditches and hedgerows.
She never turns to acknowledge you. She keeps herself to herself.
I enter the kitchen. I have only been in here a couple of times. I resist the urge to wrinkle my nose. The stench is quite overpowering. Cleaning is clearly not high on Madeline’s agenda. There is no lid on the bin and flies buzz contentedly over the decaying matter. There is a sink by the window, held in position by a rough piece of wood. Plates from at least three meals are piled precariously.
The old gas cooker is next to the sink and on its top are two filthy saucepans and a frying pan with an inch of cooling fat in the bottom. There is a wardrobe at the bottom of the kitchen which houses all Madeline’s kitchen utensils, plates and cups and the biggest flat-screen television I have ever seen!
The only other piece of furniture is a long table and two benches. As Madeline hastily moves the oyster shells and breadcrumbs left from lunch to one corner of the table, she motions for me to sit down.
‘Coffee?’ she asks.
‘NO’ I scream inwardly. ’Yes please.’ I smile politely.
She pours me a cup of coffee. As she tells me about her sister’s problems with her husband and children she brings a huge litre jam jar to the table. It is filled three-quarters full with a brown liquid. Slightly darker on the top. And floating on the top in a pale brown mass.
She cuts a piece of the fermenting mass and puts it in her cup, adds boiling water, mixes it, and starts to drink it.
I am distracted slightly as I hear their dog being sick under the table. I move my legs further under the bench. Madeline ignores the dog but continues to tell me about her sister’s woes.
I can’t ignore the brown culture fermenting in the jar in front of me any longer.
‘What is that?’ I ask.
‘That is a mushroom culture called Kombucha. I have had that jar for thirty years.’
‘The same culture?’ I ask.
‘Yes, she replied smiling at my obvious shock. “It is the mother culture and it keeps growing. I shall keep it all my life. I drink it, like tea. It has excellent health qualities, it keeps me energized, it is good for my ageing joints, great for digestion, and fantastic for the eyesight.’
Later, at home, as I drink a cup of PG Tips I wonder if the Kombucha Tea culture really can have all those health benefits…
Kombucha Tea – Editors Note
I’d never heard of Kombucha before seeing this post, so I did a little research. Kombucha Tea is made by steeping (fermenting) mushroom culture in tea and sugar for a lengthy period (many days). Contrary to what some people try to promote, Kombucha Tea isn’t medically proven to improve health or to prevent cancer, and has in many cases proven detrimental to health!