The MAGIC of KEFIR – IELTS Reading Passage 1

The MAGIC of KEFIR

The MAGIC of KEFIR
The MAGIC of KEFIR

A    The shepherds of the North Caucasus region of Europe were only trying to transport milk the best way they knew how – in leather pouches strapped to the side of donkeys – when they made a significant discovery. A fermentation process would sometimes inadvertently occur en route, and when the pouches were opened up on arrival they would no longer contain milk but rather a pungent, effervescent, lowalcoholic substance instead. This unexpected development was a blessing in disguise. The new drink – which acquired the name kefir – turned out to be a health tonic, a naturally-preserved dairy product and a tasty addition to our culinary repertoire.

B    Although their exact origin remains a mystery, we do know that yeast-based kefir grains have always been at the root of the kefir phenomenon. These grains are capable of a remarkable feat: in contradistinction to most other items you might find in a grocery store, they actually expand and propagate with use. This is because the grains, which are granular to the touch and bear a slight resemblance to cauliflower rosettes, house active cultures that feed on lactose when added to milk. Consequently, a bigger problem for most kefir drinkers is not where to source new kefir grains, but
what to do with the ones they already have!

C    The great thing about kefir is that it does not require a manufacturing line in order to be produced. Grains can be simply thrown in with a batch of milk for ripening to begin. The mixture then requires a cool, dark place to live and grow, with periodic unsettling to prevent clumping (Caucasus inhabitants began storing the concoction in animal-skin satchels on the back of doors – every time someone entered the room the mixture would get lightly shaken). After about 24 hours the yeast cultures in the grains have multiplied and devoured most of the milk sugars, and the final product is then ready for human consumption.

D    Nothing compares to a person’s first encounter with kefir. The smooth, uniform consistency rolls over the tongue in a manner akin to liquefied yogurt. The sharp, tart pungency of unsweetened yogurt is there too, but there is also a slight hint of effervescence, something most users will have previously associated only with mineral waters, soda or beer. Kefir also comes with a subtle aroma of yeast, and depending on the type of milk and ripening conditions, ethanol content can reach up to two or three percent – about on par with a decent lager – although you can expect around 0.8 to one per cent for a typical day-old preparation. This can bring out a tiny edge of alcohol in the kefir’s flavour.

E    Although it has prevailed largely as a fermented milk drink, over the years kefir has acquired a number of other uses. Many bakers use it instead of starter yeast in the preparation of sourdough, and the tangy flavour also makes kefir an ideal buttermilk substitute in pancakes. Kefir also accompanies sour cream as one of the main ingredients in cold beetroot soup and can be used in lieu of regular cow’s milk on granola or cereal. As a way to keep their digestive systems fine-tuned, athletes sometimes combine kefir with yoghurt in protein shakes.

F    Associated for centuries with pictures of Slavic babushkas clutching a shawl in one hand and a cup of kefir in the other, the unassuming beverage has become a minor celebrity of the nascent health food movement in the contemporary West. Every day, more studies pour out supporting the benefits of a diet high in probiotics1. This trend toward consuming probiotics has engulfed the leisure classes in these countries to the point that it is poised to become, according to some commentators, “the next multivitamin”. These days the word kefir is consequently more likely to bring to mind glamorous, yoga mat-toting women from Los Angeles than austere visions of blustery Eastern Europe.

G    Kefir’s rise in popularity has encouraged producers to take short cuts or alter the production process. Some home users have omitted the ripening and culturation process while commercial dealers often add thickeners, stabilisers and sweeteners. But the beauty of kefir is that, at its healthiest and tastiest, it is a remarkably affordable, uncluttered process, as any accidental invention is bound to be. All that is necessary are some grains, milk and a little bit of patience. A return to the unadulterated kefir-making of old is in everyone’s interest.

Questions

Questions 1–7:

Reading Passage 1 has seven paragraphs, A–G.
Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below. Write the correct number, i–x, in boxes 1–7 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings

i .     A unique sensory experience
ii .    Getting back to basics
iii.    The gift that keeps on giving
iv.    Variations in alcohol content
v.     Old methods of transportation
vi.    Culinary applications
vii.   Making kefir
viii.  A fortunate accident
ix.    Kefir gets an image makeover
x.     Ways to improve taste

1.     Section A
2.    Section B
3.    Section C
4.    Section D
5.    Section E
6.    Section F
7.    Section G

Questions 8–11

Answer the questions below using NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the
passage for each answer. Write your answers in boxes 8–11 on your answer sheet.

8.    What do kefir grains look like?
9.    What needs to happen to kefir while it is ripening?
10.  What will the yeast cultures have consumed before kefir is ready to drink?
11.   The texture of kefir in the mouth is similar to what?

Questions 12 and 13

Choose TWO letters, A–E.
Write the correct letters in boxes 12 and 13 on your answer sheet. Which TWO products are NOT mentioned as things which kefir can replace?

A.    Ordinary cow’s milk
B.    Buttermilk
C.    Sour cream
D.    Starter yeast
E.    Yoghurt

ANSWERS

Questions 1–7:

1. viii

  • It is stated in section A that: “The shepherds of the North Caucasus region of Europe were only trying to transport milk the best way they knew how – in leather pouches strapped to the side of donkeys – when they made asignificant discovery. […] This unexpected development was a blessing indisguise. […]”
    • accident = unexpected development
    • fortunate = a blessing in disguise
  • The information given suggests that the discovery of kefir was an accident. The shepherds were simply carrying milk on the backs of donkeys, yet it was actually a fortunate thing that kefir was produced while they were doing this.

=> The answer is viii – A fortunate accident

2. iii

  • It is stated in section B that: “These grains are capable of a remarkable feat: in contradistinction to most other items you might find in a grocery store, they actually expand and propagate with use. […] Consequently, a bigger problem for most kefirdrinkers is not where to source new kefir grains, but what to do with the ones they already have!”
  • The information given suggests that kefir does not run out but will keep on growing. It will expand and it can be used to produce new kefir. As kefir is mentioned in section A as a fortunate discovery, it is like a gift and as it will keeping growing, it will keep giving.

=>The answer is iii – The gift that keeps on giving

3. vii

  • The first sentence of section C is: “The great thing about kefir is that it does not require a manufacturing line in order to be produced” – signalling that the paragraph will talk about the manufacturing/production of kefir. The paragraph then continues to explain how to to make kefir (Throw kefir in milk -> unsettle (shake) milk -> drink final product).
    • make = produce/manufacture

=> The answer is vii – Making kefir

4. i

  • It is stated in section D that: “Nothing compares to a person’s first encounter with kefir. The smooth, uniform consistency rolls over the tongue in a manner akin to liquefied yogurt. The sharp, tart pungency of unsweetened yogurt is there too, […]. Kefir also comes with a subtle aroma of yeast, [..]. This can bring out a tiny edge of alcohol in the kefir’s flavour.”
  • The paragraph describes the texture, smell and taste of kefir (sensory experience) and its uniqueness (nothing compares to).

=>The answer is i – A unique sensory experience

5. vi

  • It is stated in section E that: “Although it has prevailed largely as a fermented milk drink, over the years kefir has acquired a number of other uses. Many bakers use it instead of starter yeast in the preparation of sour dough, and the tangy flavour also makes kefir an idealbuttermilk substitute in pancakes. Kefir also accompanies sour cream as one of the main ingredients in cold beetrootsoup and can be used in lieu of regular cow’s milk on granola or cereal. As a way to keep their digestive systems fine-tuned, athletes sometimes combine kefir with yoghurt in protein shakes”.
    • applications =uses
  • This paragraph deals with different ways in which kefir can be used in cooking and food preparation. The paragraph describes how kefir can be used to replace some ingredients to make a dish or to combine with another ingredient in a dish.

=>The answer is vi – Culinary applications

6. ix

  • It is stated in section F that: “Associated for centuries with pictures of Slavicbabushkas clutching a shawl in one hand and a cup of kefirin the other, the unassuming beverage hasbecome a minor celebrity of the nascent health food movement in the contemporary West. […] These days the word kefir is consequently more likely to bring to mind glamorous, yoga mat-toting women from Los Angeles than austere visions of blustery Eastern Europe.”
  • The information given in the paragraph suggests that the image of kefir has changed dramatically over the decades, from something ordinary to something glamourous.

=> The answer is ix – Kefir gets an image makeover

7. ii

  • It is stated in section G that: “Kefir’srise in popularity has encouraged producers to take short cuts or alter the production process. Some home users have omitted the ripening and culturation process while commercial dealers often add thickeners, stabilisers and sweeteners. […] A return to the unadulterated kefir-making of old is in everyone’s interest.”.
  • The paragraph stated that the process of producing kefir has been changed by some home users and commercial dealers and concluded that returning to the old, original process of producing kefir is what people are interested in.

=>The answer is ii – Getting back to basics

Questions 8–11

8. cauliflower rosettes

  • Key words: kefir grains, look like
  • It is stated in paragraph B that: “This is because the grains, which are granular to the touch and bear a slight resemblance to cauliflower rosettes, …”.
    • look like = bear a slight resemblance to
  • This means that the grains of kefir are slightly similar to cauliflower rosettes.

=> The answer is “cauliflower rosettes

9. periodic unsettling

  • Key words: happen to kefir, while ripening
  • It is stated in paragraph C that: “ Grains can be simply thrown in with a batch of milk for ripening to begin. The mixture then requires a cool, dark place to live and grow, with periodic unsettling to prevent clumping …”.
  • This means that for kefir to ripen, it is thrown into milk, which needs periodic unsettling (gently shaking/moving) to prevent it from forming clumps – sticking together in big lumps.

=>The answer is “periodic unsettling

10. milk sugars

  • Key words: yeast cultures, consumed, before, ready to drink
  • It is stated in paragraph C that: “After about 24 hours the yeast cultures in the grains have multiplied and devoured most of the milk sugars, and the final product is then ready for human consumption.”.
    • consume = devour
    • ready to drink = ready for human consumption
  • This means that before humans can drink the final product, the milk sugars will have been consumed by the yeast cultures as they multiply.

=> The answer is “milk sugars

11. liquefied yoghurt

  • Key words: texture, kefir, in the mouth, similar to
  • It is stated in paragraph D that: “The smooth, uniform consistency rolls overthe tongue in a manner akin to liquefied yogurt”.
    • texture = consistency
    • in the mouth = over the tongue
  • similar to = akin to
  • This means that kefir feels like liquefied yogurt in the mouth.

=> The answer is “liquefied yogurt

Questions 12 and 13

12.&13.C/E (in either order)

  • Key words: 2, not mentioned, kefir, can replace
  • The evidence comes from paragraph E: “Although it has prevailed largely as a fermented milk drink, over the years kefir has acquired a number of other uses. Many bakers use it instead ofstarter yeast in the preparation of sourdough, and the tangy flavour also makes kefiran ideal buttermilk substitute in pancakes. Kefir also accompanies sour cream as one of the main ingredients in cold beetroot soup and can be used in lieu of regular cow’s milk on granola or cereal. As a way to keep their digestive systems fine-tuned, athletes sometimes combine kefir with yoghurt in protein shakes.”
    • replace = used instead of, substitute, used in lieu of
  • Kefir can replace starter yeast, buttermilk and regular cow’s milk.
  • Therefore, A, B and D are not the answer
  • It is stated that kefir can accompany sour cream or be combined with yoghurt, which means it can be used together with, not instead of these 2 things.

=> C and E are the answers

IELTS Reading British council

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