You may remember kvas, the cola of communism, the Russian homebrew typically made from dark bread. Kvas tastes much like cider and has a negligible alcohol content.
Elena’s kvas is light colored, almost clear but milky. It tastes a bit like 7-Up, zippy and tangy. Elena showed me the starter -- rice, she called it. The starter does resemble rice but it’s tiny mushrooms from Tibet, of all places.
So the ingredients are water, exotic Tibetan mushrooms and a handful of raisins. The equipment is several large jars and strainers. The raisins alternatively float and sink giving off little bubbles. That’s probably the chemistry going in those jars. Either that or quantum physics.
After several days of fermenting and bubbles and such, Elena takes plastic bottles of her potion to church to share with friends. She has given up on getting me to drink it much. Still, the aficionado group of kvas-from-Tibetan-mushroom-drinkers seems to be growing. Almost like a cult. They gather ‘round and discuss temperatures, starter and such. They take it home and spread the good news of this kvas, its benefits to kidneys.
Over the weekend, a certain Vladimir moved in to this apartment, and now he’s showing an interest in this particular homebrew. So now he's into the cult too. Yesterday Elena and daughter returned to Donetsk, but before she headed for the train, Elena bequeathed Vladimir a set of jars and starter so apparently the tradition will continue. Oh yippee.