It wasn’t until recently that I got hooked on kombucha. I was a little put off by my first taste a year or two ago. I assume it’s just an acquired taste. Regardless, the health benefits you can reap from it are extraordinary. People will argue this. Some will say it’s a fad. Other’s will say it cures diseases. Do the research and form your own opinion. All I know, it’s fucking delicious. Though I’m not fond of the name (it’s the damn vegan in me), Cheeseslave will give you quite a few good reasons why it’s good to eat fermented foods.
Let’s cut to the chase.
I mentioned to an acquaintance (who too, is straightedge) that I was buying a kombucha. He didn’t know what it was, so I told him it was a Chinese fermented mushroom tea, to which he replied, “Fermetation creates ethyl alcohol, bruh.” I told him I wasn’t about to get into an “edge debate” with him, and he said, “There’s no reason to. There are no grey areas. You are or you aren’t [straightedge]. You take it seriously or you don’t. There is no in between.” This baffles me, coming from a non-vegan straightedge guy. I mean, it always confuses the hell out of me when straightedge people aren’t vegan. I mean, typically, a lot of sXe’rs are edge for health and purity reasons. That is why I am baffled when an individual chooses to abstain from a beer, but has no problem downing fifteen sliders from White Castle. Wouldn’t it be safe to assume that a burger has more chemicals and poisons than a single beer? I do believe so.
As far as the “grey areas,” I would also have to disagree. I mean, as stated above, shouldn’t veganism go hand and hang with a straightedge lifestyle? I mean, if you’re doing it for health and purity reasons, doesn’t this just seem like the logical thing to do? What about caffeine? That’s a drug, yet many of my straightedge friends consume coffee or soda. Even sleep deprivation can be a mind-altering “substance.” Does your mouthwash contain alcohol? Note that most mouth washes contain a (very high) percentage of alcohol – typically around 20%. Do you take Advil for headaches? Do you drink energy drinks?
I believe the term “straight edge” can be a bit tricky. It started in the early 80’s, and is said to be derived from the band Minor Threat. It stemmed from punk and hardcore music, and in their lyrics, you would hear, “I’m a person just like you / But I’ve got better things to do / Than sit around and funk my head / Hang out with me the living dead / Snort white shit up my nose / Pass out at the shows / I don’t even think about speed / That’s something I just don’t need”. It’s that straight edge.
Like many things, it’s branched off – “evolved,” rather. I know a few people who are proud to be in straight edge gangs (you know, going to shows and beating people up for drinking and smoking – because obviously beer is intolerable, but violence is perfectly okay). There are some people who are just laid back beings, choosing to abstain from substances they deem impure (and not making a big deal about it). Other’s are punks, who grew up when Minor Threat first shouted these lyrics. There are many different “categories,” if you will, of straight edge beings. Not everyone listens to punk or hardcore music, and I don’t believe it should be necessary to, in order to lead a pure, drug-free life.
The basis of claiming straight edge is a life long commitment to abstaining from things one deems “impure.” These substances generally include alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. How far you want to take it is up to the individual. You can choose to abstain from promiscuous sex, caffeine, etc., etc. What does “impure” mean to the individual? How technical do you want to get? Are tattoos impure because it’s a foreign substance lodged under one’s skin permanently? If that’s the case, I’m far from straight edge.
Have we ventured too far off course? Let’s get back to the topic of kombucha.
Last summer, kombucha was removed from the shelves of Whole Foods (and possibly other stores, I am unsure) due to it’s an elevated alcohol level in SOME brands. Kombucha is fermented, which is typically converting carbs to alcohols and carbon dioxide. Restrictively, it’s the chemical conversion of sugar into ethanol. According to the FDA, a product containing more than 0.5% alcohol levels must state so on the label, and mustn’t be served to minors. Since this whole ordeal, a year later, I have yet to find a bottle of kombucha with an alcohol “warning” on it, or be carded for this particular beverage. Kombucha contains no more “alcohol” than a fermented piece of fruit. Watch out!
My take on “may contain traces.”
I was recently asked what my thoughts were on foods that “may contain traces of dairy” or “was processed on equipment shared with milk and/or dairy.” Here are my thoughts – the original product is not meant to contain dairy. I see it as a soup and salad bar. There may be a vegan soup sitting next to a non-vegan soup. When someone serves themselves the non-vegan soup, some of it may accidentally splash into the neighboring vegan soup. The establishment may have to disclose that the non-vegan soup “may contain traces” to cover their ass in case someone who is allergic to dairy or meat may contain this now “contaminated” soup. It’s cross contamination and it’s very likely. The same concept goes as far as kombucha. The beverage is not intended to be an alcoholic beverage. There is simply the chance that in the natural process of fermentation, alcohol may (key word MAY) contain traces (traces, people) of alcohol. I say, it’s up to the consumer to decide, and how flexible you are. I, personally, do not consume products labeling with “may contain traces.”
Permission to be a smart ass? Permission granted.
Okay, hXc Straight Edgers. Here is a short list of other fermented foods you might want to avoid, for fear of “breaking edge.”
- (some) Bread.
- Soy sauce.
- (some) Tofu.
- Sprouted foods.