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Poem: "Brewing Trouble" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Brewing Trouble"
This poem came out of the October 7, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from Perfectworry, LJ user Westrider, and Deb1789.  It also fills the "parent(s)" square in my 9-29-14 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.

"Brewing Trouble"</p>

Victor and Igor spent a pleasant morning
in the village teaching the children
how to figure things out.

Victor mashed up red cabbage leaves
to extract the deep purple juice
while Igor went about asking for
samples of things to mix into it.

Adam sat on the ground and
chewed the leftover cabbage pulp.

First Victor filled a row of cups,
leaving a bit of juice in the bowl.
"Now this will be our control,"
he said, pointing at the bowl,
"so we remember what
plain cabbage juice looks like."

Next Igor waved a hand
over the samples.  "Crina,
pick one thing to put in the first cup."

She grabbed the cider vinegar
and poured it in.

The cabbage juice turned red.

"Ooo!  Why did it do that?"
Crina asked, leaning forward.

"Vinegar is acidic," Igor explained.
"Ágota, choose something for the next cup."

She added the soap shavings,
and the cabbage juice turned blue.
"It's different!" she exclaimed.

"Soap tends to be alkaline," Igor said.
Quickly he grabbed Adam to stop him
from putting a sliver of soap in his mouth.
"It doesn't taste very good either."

"Can I put something in?"
asked Gyuri's son Traian,
who was between the girls in age.

"Go ahead," Igor said.
"Pick whatever you want."

Traian chose the cream.
"It didn't change," he said,
clearly disappointed.

"What do you think that means?"
Victor asked the boy.

"I did it wrong."

"Maybe, or there could be
some other explanation,"
Victor said.  "Think about
what happened before
and what happened just now.
What does that tell you?"

"Oh!  Oh!" Crina said,
bouncing in her place.
"I have an idea."

"It's Traian's turn now,"
Igor murmured.  "Give him
a moment to think."

"I dunno."  Traian shrugged.

"All right then, Crina?"
Victor invited.

"If vinegar goes red
and soap goes blue,
then maybe cream
is in the middle," she said.
"Purple's between red and blue,
so it wouldn't change any."

"Clever girl," Victor said,
clapping his soft hands.
"You figured it out."

Traian scowled at her.
"She's too smart for a girl."

Igor clucked his tongue at the boy.
"Nobody's too smart," he said.
"Why don't you try again, Traian?
See if you can guess what will
make the juice change color.
What's like vinegar?"

Traian stared at the samples,
his forehead wrinkling.  "Wine."

"Give it a try," Igor said.

Traian poured in the wine,
and even though it was white wine,
the cabbage juice turned red.
"I did it!" he crowed.

"You sure did," Igor said.

"See, see!  Red," Adam said,
reaching for the cup.

Victor scooted it out of reach
and handed him an apple instead.
Adam gnawed happily on the fruit.

Together Victor and Igor
coached the children through
the rest of the materials,
reminding them to check results
against the control sample.

When Dorottya came to pick up
her daughter Ágota, she frowned
over the clutter of cups.
"If you keep teaching them this,
they're going to wind up
as bad as Dénes," she said.

"This is a problem?" Victor said mildly.
"I thought you liked his brewing."

"I do, when he's brewing good liquor
that we can sell," Dorottya said.
"When he's brewing trouble,
that's a different thing altogether.
I've lost count of just how many
bottle bombs have gone off this month!"

Victor and Igor shared a look.
They'd already seen what could happen
when fermentation led to flying glass,
and neither of them wanted to see
Dénes get hurt again.

"What brought this on?" Igor asked
as he tidied up their supplies.
"Dénes usually knows what he's doing."

"He knew what he was  doing,"
Dorottya said.  "He has no idea
what he's doing now,  with all this
new inspiration from Csilla."

"We'll just drop by and have a chat
with him then," Victor said,
balancing Adam on his hip.

No sooner did they enter the shop
than Dénes pounced on them.
"Come see my new brewing!"
he exclaimed, waving them in.

"I'd rather not if it's likely to go bang,"
Victor said gently.  "Adam is with us."

"Oh, it's all right now -- I had Lóránt
make me a cabinet to hold the bottles,"
Dénes said as he pointed it out.

The cabinet had ten small doors,
each covered by a tin panel
with a star pattern punched in it
to provide ventilation.

"Shiny stars," Adam said,
reaching out toward one.

"See, I can put a different batch
into each section, and if one blows,
it won't break all the others," Dénes said.

"Or slice you to ribbons if you're in the room
when that happens," Igor said.

"I still jump when one goes off, though,"
Dénes admitted, rubbing the scar on his arm.

"But it hasn't stopped you from experimenting
with new recipes," Victor said. 

"Ah, nothing could do that," Dénes said.
He patted the cabinet.  "I'm always fiddling
with the old recipes, you know.
It's just now I have a lot more ideas."

"New ideas make for exciting science,"
Victor agreed with a smile.

"I'm not a scientist like you," Dénes said.
"I'm just a village brewer."

"Brewing is  science, Dénes," said Victor.
"Though to be sure, it's closer to Igor's work
than it is to most of mine."

"Well, if you think ... I could show you
my logbook," Dénes said slowly.  "You have to
promise not to copy anything from it, though."

"I would never steal another man's work,"
Igor said, looking him in the eye.

Dénes brought out the logbook,
thick creamy pages bound in brown leather,
full of his crabbed, awkward writing
and surprisingly deft sketches.

Poring over the notes, Victor realized
that Dénes was drawing in things
not just as illustrations but as replacements
for words that he didn't know how to write.

He also realized the source of the problems.

"You're changing too many things at once,"
Victor pointed out, finger on a relevant line.

Dénes frowned at him.  "I thought you said
that you don't know much about brewing."

"I don't need to," Victor said.  "That rule
applies to everything: if you're making
changes, only do one at a time, so you
can tell which change has what result.
If you change several things at once,
there's no way to know which one of them
altered the results in what way."

"And thus, why this batch of bottles
blew up but the others didn't," Igor added.

"Hmm," Dénes said thoughtfully.
His fingers drummed on the top
of the walnut cabinet.

"Me see," Adam demanded,
reaching for the logbook.

"This is a pretty boring book
for someone your age," Dénes said.
"Would you like one about food?"
He held out the little wooden book
with colorful illustrations of fruit that
he used to help his less-literate customers
choose what they wanted to buy.

"Apple!" said Adam.
That was painted on the front.

"Yes, that's an apple," Victor said.
"Can you tell me the others?"

He kept Adam occupied while Igor
helped Dénes look through the notes
and theorize why so many
of the bottles were exploding.

The two men talked about
yeasts and fruits, sugar and bubbles.
Then Igor went on and on about
some kind of mold that grew on grape skins.

Finally they closed the logbook,
and Adam handed back the fruit book.

"That should reduce the chance
of brewing trouble," Igor said.

Dénes gave him a rueful look.
"Dorottya asked you to stop by,
didn't she," he guessed.

"She wants you to be safe," Victor said.

"So do we," Igor added.  "I'd also like
to try your new recipes, whatever works --
and it's no good if they pop the bottles."

"True," Dénes said. 
"Thanks for the help."

"You can pay us back in brew,"
Victor said with a wink.

Dénes laughed.  "I'll do that."

* * *


Scientific method entails a methodical observation of experiments, and the use of a control group.

Red cabbage (which is actually purple) is a classic kitchen chemistry material, because it turns red in the presence of an acid (such as vinegar) or blue in the presence of a base (such as soap).  Cream is neutral, so does not change the color.

At fifteen months, Adam has busy hands and enjoys mimicking actions.  He's also more proactive about demanding attention.

The new cabinet looks something like this; just imagine that each panel is its own door and the shelves inside are similarly divided.  It's made from walnut, a hard and shock-resistant wood.

Brewing science includes attention to yeast fermentation.  It is very popular with hobby-scientists.

Wooden books are most often used for babies and toddlers, but also in cases where something gets handled frequently and may need to withstand spills.
Bottle bombs are a known hazard of brewing.  There are tips on how to avoid them and how to prepare for them.

Redirection and distraction are ideal techniques for channeling a toddler's need to explore into constructive outlets.  As in martial arts, it is easier to deflect than to stop outright, and children's annoying behavior comes from growth needs that can cause trouble if stifled.  The key is to enable positive opportunities instead of yelling about negative ones.

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42 comments or Leave a comment
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: October 16th, 2014 12:16 am (UTC) (Link)
We've been kept really busy in other things so have missed quite a lot of your poetry. It's good to read about Frankenstein's family again! One of our former roommates was into home brewing; we never heard of bottle bombs till now though.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 16th, 2014 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> We've been kept really busy in other things so have missed quite a lot of your poetry. <<

Glad to have you back, then. Check Damask's thread if you haven't seen the recent poems: major revelation as to why she went apeshit this semester.

>> It's good to read about Frankenstein's family again! <<

I'm happy to hear that. I really had fun with them.

>> One of our former roommates was into home brewing; we never heard of bottle bombs till now though. <<

Bottle bombs are an inherent risk of fermentation. Some beverages they almost never happen, others they are more common. If you're careful, they are quite rare; some people never have a bottle go off. But if you're experimenting, then yeah, things can go bang. High pressure + glass containers = shrapnel. Hence what happened earlier in the series with Denes bleeding all over the floor.
From: siliconshaman Date: October 16th, 2014 01:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm really going to have to remember to keep a log book of recipes...I usually apply the scientific method to tweaking what I'm cooking, but I forget to write down the results. [which sometimes leads to me wracking my brains to recreate what I did] I need to make an old-fashioned family cookbook or something, but being dyslexic [and busy at the time!] kinda discourages me from writing stuff up.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 16th, 2014 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)


>> I'm really going to have to remember to keep a log book of recipes...I usually apply the scientific method to tweaking what I'm cooking, but I forget to write down the results. [which sometimes leads to me wracking my brains to recreate what I did] <<

I usually write down mine so I can replicate things, although more of my recipes are flexible than finicky.

>> I need to make an old-fashioned family cookbook or something, but being dyslexic [and busy at the time!] kinda discourages me from writing stuff up. <<

Frustrating, yes, but worth a try. It doesn't have to be fancy. Mine wouldn't meet my own standards for a real cookbook because there are no photos, but the instructions are sound.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: October 16th, 2014 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)
If your dyslexia gets in the way, you might try video taping yourself putting together a new recipe for the first time or you could simply do a voice recording.
I'm such a strong visual learner that trying to learn how to do something by simply listening to someone talk drives me absolutely nuts because I'm constantly having to ask them to stop a minute while I write what they're saying down. I have very little memory for oral instruction although I can remember almost everything I read. You know when I finally found out that this is a type of learning disability? While I was taking teachers' education classes in college!
siege From: siege Date: October 17th, 2014 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't learn well from videos and audio lessons unless I'm focused on something else as well, like the lesson materials. Too little interaction, with too little material that I can study at my own pace and read back and forth to figure out the details. So written texts work better for me, especially if illustrated.

But the best method for me is to pair a written, illustrated instruction set with hands-on practice and a teacher who does the work being taught... and is willing to show me how it's done.

I keep wishing I could return to the time when my mind was naturally structured in creative ways and computer programming, but I think those days are over now. If it does come back, all I need is a good text, a guide to the language(s) I'm using, and some API documentation. Everything else is figuring out how to design the interface for the process; the actual process behind the scenes is just a bunch of little bits communicating anyway.
From: technoshaman Date: November 2nd, 2014 04:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd always wanted to have a beater laptop, covered in saran wrap, in the kitchen, for recipes... but somehow I forgot when I moved in here, with a six-butt kitchen and spare lappies galore. Thanks for reminding me!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 2nd, 2014 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)


Actually tablet computers are sold for kitchen-recipe use. There are programs and apps for all kinds of cooking with that in mind. You mount the thing on a wall or cabinet. I've seen them. It's quite clever. And there are no keys to get sticky.
From: siliconshaman Date: November 2nd, 2014 10:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know.. that's not a bad idea. I've an old laptop I can use for that. I can type ok after all [don't ask me why it shorts out my dyslexia but it does.]

Thanks mate!
From: rhodielady_47 Date: October 16th, 2014 06:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Very well crafted poem--lots of good concept material in it too--"food for thought" even for someone with a science background like me.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 16th, 2014 06:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you found it so thought-provoking.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: October 16th, 2014 06:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

When I was growing up, I really enjoyed reading stories where the characters made things. I don't know why such stories are so rare. You'd think that people would want their kids to read about folks making stuff or doing experiments like this one and enjoying the process of doing it.
From: technoshaman Date: November 2nd, 2014 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lemme guess, Alton Brown fan? :)

Brewing is Srs Bzns... I belong (loosely) to a foodie group with a motorcycle problem... hearing the guys go on about specific gravity, bitterness units, timing, temperature, cleaning procedures and chemicals, etc... and the output? BEER. (This one guy - he's an engineer for Intel - used his CNC mill (yes, he's that big a geek, he can fab his OWN funny parts) to help make a custom rack for his brewing setup... all the various bits he needs, including the propane tank, on a portable setup that looks a lot like a bellman's cart...)

And, no, these aren't the typical hog drivers you see bellied up to the tavern... these guys ride highly technical European or Japanese bikes and save their drinking until *after* the riding's done...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 2nd, 2014 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)


They sound like fascinating fellows. We have a friend who's a homebrewer, and likes to have me sample his wares (even though I'm not a big fan of alcohol and less of beer, but I don't mind the crisp ale-like ones he favors) because I can pick out what herbs he used for flavoring. *chuckle* There was one where I said, "All I can taste is the sage." It wasn't bad ... just really different. I told him it would probably make the best beer-butt chicken ever.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: November 3rd, 2014 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
You guessed correctly--I'm an Alton Brown fan.
I think he did all of North America a huge favor by showing us all how to safely fry a turkey. I've had a yen to rig up my own turkey derrick ever since!

I've often thought I'd love to learn to make beer--I have a minor in Chemistry to go with my major in Biology--enough so that I even toyed with the idea of buying some hops vine roots one year.
One thing I liked about the OCC show is that they displayed all the equipment they used in the making of the bikes. I'd heard about waterjet cutters but I was green with envy when they got one and started using it. I groaned in sympathy when they discovered that the width of a line can and will throw your calculations off if you don't allow for them in your drawings.
I'm glad your friends are smart enough to keep their pleasures separate and their bodies in one piece.

42 comments or Leave a comment