How Kombucha Became the Millennial Version of "Friendship Bread"
The trendiest food starters shared between friends have evolved from gluten-packed indulgences to gut-healthy probiotics, and we aren't totally mad about it.
I convinced my dad to try kombucha for the first time a few weeks ago by telling him it was "healthy sweet tea." He hated it. My father may not be from the South originally, but he's sure got a Southern palate. He runs on sugar and butter, and he loves sweet tea almost as much as I love the Gilmore Girls. For all of his unhealthy eating habits, he's in pretty good shape and maintains seemingly great health, but he regularly complains about stomach pain and digestive problems. I started drinking kombucha several months ago, and once I realized that it really was helping my regular stomach aches and pains, I had to share it with everyone I knew--including Dad. After weeks of my preaching the kombucha gospel, he gave it a few sips... but he didn't like the taste or the $4-a-bottle price tag, and ultimately decided to stick with his sugar-loaded, sweet tea-downing ways. Okay, so maybe it's an acquired taste--although, I really do remember liking it the first time I tried it--but I couldn't comprehend why my dad wouldn't commit to regularly drinking something that, while not cheap and maybe not the his favorite flavored thing in the world (I drink the strawberry flavor now and love it), would improve several of his recurring health issues and improve his quality of life in a significant way.
This whole experience brought me back to something I've been thinking about a lot lately, which is the conversation about Millennials and food. I recently read this article from Forbes on how Millennials are transforming the food industry and, though it's not the first time I've read a piece like this, I couldn't agree more with the writer's stance (and of course you can't argue with the facts because #science). As I've mulled over the kombucha and similar experiences for several months, it has really struck me how much my parents and other adults of the Baby Boomer generation still live and act according to the traditions, customs, and mindset of their generation.
Don't get me wrong, my parent's generation enjoyed and made good food, but they were far more focused on convenience and ease than they were on healthy and fresh. They worked hard, saved their money, and food was more of a means to an end than an end in itself. Do you think the terms sourcing, organic, gluten-free, free-range, or any of the like ever came up at the dinner table during my parents' growing up years? Doubt it, but hey, I think that's kind of beautiful.
Millennials are different, though. For our generation, food is more than just a means to an end--further still, many of us will go so far as to descibe food as a part of our lifestyle. We have a never-ending curiosity for trying new foods and cooking processes, and we want to know where ingredients come from and what they do for us. For many, long-term fitness and healthy living goals are as much a part of our bucket lists as traveling the world or running our own businesses one day.
That said, some food concepts outstand any generational differences. Traditions are one of those rare things in life that minimize space and time, and are able to link generations together in a very lovely way. Amish Friendship Bread is one such tradition that stems from the Baby Boomer generation. My mom used tell me stories of passing 'starters' to friends and family--especially as heartfelt, yet inexpensive, gifts during the holiday season.
This classic recipe is special because of the significant time the gifter has to invest in the process. The starter takes 10 days to make, but once created, you can give several away for friends to start their own batches--and then the process continues, multiplies, and goes on and on forever (well, at least that's the goal). I had the opportunity to try some for the first time several months ago, and this sweet cinnamon-sugar bread is pretty dang fantastic. See? Traditions are great. So where are the headlines about Amish friendship bread today?
Here's your friendship bread. Drink up.
Photo and Styling: Jessica Colyer
Yeah, I'm talking about kombucha. The fermented tea my dad refuses to drink has emerged as the modern iteration of the gift that keeps on giving. Ask any Millennial or healty food fanatic about kombucha, and you're guaranteed to get yourself caught up in a conversation with a passionate, probiotic-guzzling enthusiast about the beverage's wellness benefits. The SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) pictured above is the life force behind kombucha--the key to all of the probiotics and fermentation of this nutritive drink. And when each batch of kombucha has finished fermenting--after approximately 7-10 days--a new layer of (or entirely new) SCOBY forms, which means that you can give part of your SCOBY to family and friends so they can start brewing their own kombucha home. I know it sounds weird to give a jelly fish-like, living bacteria, but I've witnessed it happening before my very eyes time and time again. Once one person in our office began brewing kombucha, the chain of SCOBY gifting spread like wild fire. When gifting a SCOBY, be sure to deliver it in a container with enough brewed kombucha to get the recipient started on their first batch, along with a copy of this helpful kombucha primer from Cooking Light. You could also give them a few suggestions for how to flavor their kombucha.
Photo and styling: Jessica Colyer
Though it's trendy, kombucha is full of health benefits (certainly more than cinnamon-sugar bread), and is apt to stick around for awhile. It's been proven to aid digestion, help with weight loss, increase energy, support your immune system, and it's delicious to boot. How's that for #friendship?