Breaking up with sourdoughJuly 22, 2020 by Darcie
Back in the early days of the pandemic (I’m sad that I even have to type that phrase), when yeast was nowhere to be found on store shelves, intrepid bakers rolled up their sleeves and went to work making bread the old-fashioned way: creating their own sourdough starter. I was one of those intrepid bakers, fastidiously weighing rye flour on a digital scale, setting a reminder on my phone to make sure I didn’t miss a feeding, waiting patiently for the first bubbles to indicate that the wild yeasts were greedily devouring the flour.
It was fascinating and lovely and lasted about two weeks, after which the starter developed a funky aroma similar to what a sports mom might find in her kid’s duffel bag that sat in the car under the hot sun for a week. Sighing heavily, I started anew, with results that were better than the previous effort, but by this time my heart was no longer in it and I ignored the reminders, and the starter, until it finally got tossed into the compost bin. I did not tell anyone of my sourdough failure until now, inspired by Esther Mobley’s own tale of how she broke up with sourdough bread.
Mobley had a good long talk with her starter to ease the breakup, clearing the air about why they had to sever their relationship. “At this point, sourdough, you have left me crying alone in my kitchen one too many late nights, my sweatpants caked in flour, and I can’t justify putting myself through the agony any longer,” she patiently explained. While viewing images of other people’s sourdough success, Mobley watched as leaden loaf after leaden loaf come out of her oven. This was not, as she hoped, a match made in heaven.
I wish I had been able to calmly discuss why I was breaking up with my sourdough starter, but I didn’t have the guts like Mobley did. She even admitted to having an affair, something I was too ashamed to do. “I have to come clean: I baked bread with yeast back in May,” she confessed. “Only once, I swear. OK, a couple of times. And you know what, sourdough? It was great. That yeasted bread respected my time. It was so easy to get along with. The conversation just flowed. And I went to sleep that night without feeling consumed by guilt and failure.” I’m back with yeast as well, and the relationship has blossomed. We are a much better match.
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