We met on Craigslist. Meeting a suitor in that way has its pros and cons. Con? They might be a serial killer. Pro? The door is open for a lot of potential weirdness. However, I didn’t think of my kombucha as weird. I thought of it as kind of quaint, sweet, and helpful. It was my emotional support animal. It was like a cross between a plant and a goldfish that earned its keep by benefiting my gut health. So, I was kind of surprised when, a few dates in, my beau was disgusted upon meeting my SCOBY. Who couldn’t get behind a faceless, silent being that did nothing but give of itself?
My boyfriend was in mid-sentence, looking cute as all get-out, when all of a sudden, he stopped and began to stammer. “Wha-wha-WHAT IS THAT?” he bellowed, shocked by the flat pale creature the size of a dinner plate, casually chilling in a giant jar of water under my kitchen counter. His surprise, dismay, and general reaction to my kombucha struck me in the moment as absolutely hilarious, and I laughed until I couldn’t catch my breath anymore. He was a combination of amused and nonplussed at my jovial response, and stood looking perplexed, waiting for an explanation. I was more than excited to tell him about my pet thing. “Well, you see,” I began, once I recovered, “it’s a SCOBY.” He wasn’t quite on the same page. “A scooby?” he mockingly retorted. “No, a SCOBY,” I enunciated. “It’s a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast,” I said matter-of-factly. “It’s half plant, half animal.” He eyeballed me like I had worms for hair, his mouth turned downward in disapproval. I felt like maybe I’d permanently lost him in that moment. How could this guy I met on Craigslist be weirded out by something that was, in my mind, not one iota weirder than meeting on Craigslist?
I assumed he’d come to love my kombucha in time. Maybe he just needed to taste its tea, I surmised, but he refused to let the clear bitter liquid go anywhere near his lips. Again, weird for a Craigslist hookup, I decided. But I thought he would develop his own relationship with the swimming mushroom, after awhile. Soon, he’d be changing SCOBY’s water, we’d be making kombucha tea together and posing for family portraits.
However, this was not to be.
His sincere disapproval of my SCOBY began to take its toll. Whenever I drank the tea, he’d recoil, sickened. When it was time for me to care for it, he refused to watch and would make snide comments. Was he jealous of its healing power, or perhaps my adoration of it?
I know the love I had for this ugly little kombucha blob might seem odd, but hey, the heart wants what it wants.”
I eventually came to understand that my affair with my SCOBY was over once my boyfriend asked, “Can we put it outside?” He wanted me to place the jar on the patio, out of his sight. I knew that wouldn’t be good for the SCOBY’s health, and I put my foot down. “No,” I said. “It’ll die.” He stood firm. “Maybe that’s not such a bad thing? You can put it out of its misery,” he said.
Instead of letting it wither away alone on a sad, city patio, I opted instead to pass it on to a friend, expensive jar and all. The day I handed it over was bittersweet. I’d had the SCOBY for over a year, and it was almost as emotional as if I were giving up my beloved cat. I had grown close to the alien-esque goober whose juice had nursed me back to health when I was having unexplained, mysterious stomach problems, which had carried on for months on end and had made me lose 20 pounds. It saved me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to make my own, versus purchasing the kombucha drinks at $4 a pop per day. It gave me something to care for, to dote on, to watch over, even to chat with on occasion. (“How’s my little monster doing today?”) Yes, I had actually grown fond of it.
For someone who has never seen or appreciated one, I know the love I had for this ugly little kombucha blob might seem odd, but hey, the heart wants what it wants. And as my boyfriend and my relationship was becoming stronger, I knew it was time for me to share the joy and health boost the kombucha had given me by letting it go.
My boyfriend has since become my husband, and we have since started a family. We have begun businesses and have had a fruitful life together. Though my husband never grew to love my kombucha like I did, it has occurred to me that the thing could be partially responsible for our happiness.
Sometimes I think about my kombucha and wonder where on Earth it is today. I don’t remember which friend I gave it to, so I can’t even call and ask how it’s doing.
I hope, wherever it is, it’s thriving, well cared for, its juices giving someone else happiness and curing what may ail them.
Hopefully it has a good home, where it is loved.
Illustration by Adam Waito.