Hence my theory—that eventually, as the probiotic industry develops new products that have trillions of living microorganisms swimming around inside reinforced-steel containers, we’re bound to end up with a Three Mile Island situation, with simultaneous digestive colonic eruptions leading to splatter events that make the disembowelment scene in Blood Feast seem quaint by comparison.

Meanwhile, chemists living in aspirational neighborhoods in Silver Spring, Maryland, continue to labor in obscurity, seeking ways to pack more and more lactic acid into pickles, soybean cakes, buttermilk, sauerkraut, and soy sauce.

And, by the way, does anybody know what’s really in soy sauce? I didn’t think so.

A lot of this stuff comes from Japan. What does that tell you? The Japanese always wanna create a Frankenstein version of what the rest of the world uses, and in this case that product is called Yakult. Yakult is a chemically enhanced yogurt that’s so popular in Japan that they have a professional baseball team called the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

But Asia has always been the world leader in taking sour vegetables, packing them into mushburgers, and then letting ’em get nasty:

Kimchi, beloved by videogame designers in Austin, is cabbages and radishes left out in the sun.

Pao cai, frequently consumed by hipsters in Madison, is a disgusting Chinese pickle.

Tempeh, the favorite afternoon snack of start-up entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, is basically a nut-flavored soybean patty. Yum.

Miso, of miso soup fame, contains not only fermented soybeans but tasty fungus.

Natto, the “forgotten” probiotic beloved by the probiotic cognoscenti, is a slimy fermented Japanese soybean. It’s the slime factor—no pain, no gain—that makes it special.

Even buttermilk, the stuff your freaky aunt always tried to force on you, is spoiled leftovers from the butter churn.

And just what is the purpose of all this interest in the “intestinal ecosystem” (and yes, that’s really a thing)?

To remain eternally youthful, because it’s the large bowel that causes aging in the form of inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, excessive diarrhea, bacterial vaginosis (don’t ask), and all the disgusting things that Jamie Lee Curtis implies might be happening to your tummy in the Activia commercials.

There are 1,000 types of microorganisms in your lower abdomen, and those are called the “gut flora.” I’m not sure why they chose this term—it summons up images of an Amazon rain forest clogging up your intestines—but as the Food and Drug Administration prepares its cease-and-desist orders, various companies are now claiming that taking care of your gut flora will result in cures for allergies, mental-health conditions, eczema, immune disorders, and the holy grail of all American health fads—obesity.

Of course, as you might imagine, all probiotic roads lead to California, where a mere $60 a month will bring you a vibrant florid stomach watched over by Dr. Edison de Mello of Akasha Naturals. (Ask for the Activated You line of “mind, body and spirit” products.)

And, of course, somebody had to make a fermented tea so that Beverly Hills ladies can sip it at The Ivy. The tea is called kombucha, and Lindsay Lohan drinks it. I rest my case.

There’s actually a much easier and cheaper solution for setting the Guinness World Record for longevity: Move to Eastern Europe and buy a goat. After all, if the ultimate goal is to copy the lifestyle choices of the Bulgarian peasant, let’s go ahead and start screwing with the real estate prices in Sofia.


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