#AtoZ Challenge #Yeast


When I think of yeast I’m reminded of the ginger beer plant my mother was given, back in the 60’s. A ginger beer plant is similar to a sourdough starter, but is more difficult to make. The original ginger beer plant dates back to  the 18th century; it is a combination of the yeast Saccharomyces florentinus and the bacterium Lactobacillus hilgardii. Unlike modern plants which use Brewers Yeast, it produces an unfermented, and therefore non-alcoholic beverage, suitable for the whole family. Although the original plants are now available via the internet, they all but died out during World War 2, so mum considered herself lucky to have aquired one.

Traditionally, before making each fresh batch of ginger beer, the plant would be split in half, and one half would be given away, while the other half was split in two. One portion would be made into ginger beer, while the other porion was left to grow – and so it continued.

At first…

At first my siblings and I were ecstatic – particularly my eldest brother Angus who has a particular passion for ginger. Suddenly there was an endless supply of that beautiful, fizzy. warming, thirst-quenching drink, and when mum began handing out the plants to friends and neighbours they were equally happy. For many of them it brought back childhood memories of those days before the war, when their mothers had similar plants.

We lived in a small rural community. For women, social life mostly consisted of going to Womens’ Institute meetings, church, (for those who weren’t married to rabid, controlling atheists such as my father) and drinking tea in each other’s kitchens. My mother’s circle was wider than those of her neighbours, so it was a while before the ginger beer plant showed its true colours.

She gave a ginger beer plant to her lovely lesbian friends, a couple who lived in another village, about five miles away.

The next plant went to Trudi, who lived about five minutes walk away.

She gave one to Mike and Molly, who ran the folk club in a nearby town, and lived about fifteen miles away.

Margaret, who lived just up the road, had one.

She handed them out to anyone who was willing to take them – artists, musicians, her friends at the Scottish Country Dance Group, shopkeepers, the people she worked with – it saddened her that the homeless man with whom she was friendly had nowhere to make ginger beer, not that it was his preferred tipple anyway.

After a while…

After a while, in north Devon, there were hotspots where Ginger beer was as plentiful as tap water.

Mum tried to give a plant to the wife of a local farmer. She didn’t want it. Trudi had aleady given her one. She offered one to a teacher at the primary school in the nearby village, but she’d got one from the headmaster’s wife.

The ginger beer supply had reached saturation point, and yet still the plant kept expanding. All the people we knew were trying to give each other ginger beer plants, but everybody already had one.

The village was trying to raise money to   build a new village hall. The Womens Institute had come up with the innovative idea of opening a transport cafe. This transport cafe was housed in the old village hall, and was open for business throughout the night once a week, and on that night, from my bedroom window half a mile away, I could see the headlights of lorries as they pulled in, and when they left.

I had a mental image of each driver walking into the hall anticipating a slap-up breakfast, only to find himself surrounded by women who clutched his sleeve, sank to their knees in front of him and tried  to thrust ginger beer plants into his hands, all the time begging and wailing “Take mine, please, kind sir, take mine.”


The day came when my mother split her ginger beer plant, but couldn’t get anyone to take it. The next time she made ginger beer she felt compelled to produce a double batch in the hope that she would manage to give some away, but nobody wanted it because they already had too much of their own. She tried to pursuade us to drink extra, but the stomach cna only contain a finite amount of fluid, and anyway, it didn’t taste the same as it used to, because she was so sick of making it that she’d become sloppy with measuring out the ingredients.

That’s when I knew the ginger beer plant was a tyrant. It wanted to be in every household in the world, to enslave the entire population, to force everyone to make rivers of ginger beer which would drown us, before flowing into the oceans all over the planet, turning everything it touched into ginger beer. It was a conspiracy. The ginger beer plant wanted to drown us in sweet nectar.


Eventually, Mum, her friends and her neighbours must have realised the truth, because one by one they destroyed the plants.


Sometimes we missed mum’s ginger beer, but we knew it was for the best.

Yeast is a useful ingredient, but it sometimes wants to be the main dish.

©Jane Paterson Basil


34 thoughts on “#AtoZ Challenge #Yeast

    1. Surprisingly, I didn’t make it up. (except, perhaps, the bit about a ginger beer plant conspiracy) My mum was always throwing herself into some new craze in the kitchen. For a couple of years when baked all her own bread, then she stopped that and made tthe most beautiful ice-cream. She was a wonderful cook – the problem was that the more times she cooked something, the less trouble she took, so eventually it would hardly be recignisable as bread, or ice-cream, or marmalade, or whatever. She would notice nobody was enjoying it any more, and switch to something else.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Amazing! This article sums up the attitude of a person who think so much of himself that he acts as if he is the master of all universe forgetting he is the creature not the creator. Jane, this is only my own interpretation. Whatever it is you wish to convey, I would still give you two thumbs up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a very apt interpretation. I was thinking of the way evil grows and engulfs whole countries. The evil I had in mind was the rise of drug addiction, but it could apply to anything.
      You seem to have noticed I like to use metaphor 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

                    1. You sounnd to me like the ideal mother – as you say, you are doing your best to be worthy of your lovely daughters. What more can anyone do but their best?
                      Knowing how much you love them will give them the strength to go out into the world with confidence, and make the most of their lives.

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jane,
    can you help?
    Some bloggers are telling me, when they
    try to visit my new site they are being redirected
    to my old deleted site.
    Are you having any problems visiting my site?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t visit your site except through the email reminders, and I don’t seem to be getting those. I’ll have to make sure the reminders are activated.
      I don’t know how you can sort out your problem – I suppose your new blog is a kind of subsidiary to the original one. Have you tried asking a question on the support forum?
      Meanwhile I’ll see if I can find out anything useful.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Finns make two similar non-alcoholic beverages, one with lemons the other with malt and hops – except it’s not split and given away. Mum used to make it all the time. You knew the lemon one was ready for drinking when the sultanas in the bottle rose to the top. Or there was too much yeast and the whole thing blew up, making a big mess!

    Liked by 1 person

            1. We have a communal recycling depot outside. I just have to pluck up the courage to go and take stuff out of there, instead of putting it in – if anyone sees me they’ll think I’m weird, but by their standards, I am. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

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