When we had this newest baby, someone brought us sourdough bread and J raved, and it got me thinking about dabbling in sourdough, at a time in my life when I should really only be thinking about how to manage to get all of us properly dressed in one day.
So while the idea was probably a bit ambitious, I tried to approach it as casually as possible, sort of sidling up, you might say. I looked into how to create your own starter, ran a 3 am search on requesting starter developed on the Oregon Trail, and eventually settled for the easiest method: seeing if anyone I knew had some to share.
A woman from our homeschool co op did, and though I didn’t know her well, she generously drove some out to my house and pretended not to notice that two out of three kids were wailing as she dropped it off. She even emailed me a recipe.
But first I got too cocky and tried a recipe I found on my own, resulting in a very delicious, hideous, 2-inch-tall loaf, so then I tried the recipe Ann Marie had given me.
The rhythm of the process is so comforting: feed the starter in the morning, mix the dough in the evening, leave to rise in a warm place. In the morning, punch it down, split it into two loaf pans, wait. In late afternoon, pop them in the oven.
And then, the most important part: share it.
When I was a girl, it was my father who made the family bread. He always said it gave him an excuse to stay in for a whole afternoon (perpetual introvert), deprecating his generosity, as always. He’d make two loaves, too, and on a Sunday afternoon, he’d send me out, alone or with my sister or my mom — never himself. My job was to walk the spare loaf to a neighbors’, warm and loosely wrapped, and over the years, over our venturing across the blocks, an unsociable man’s bread must have fed dozens, saying what he couldn’t or wouldn’t say in words.
So Ann Marie’s starter connects me, to her, to its origins, wherever and whoever they are. My own children walk with me to deliver a loaf now, or we give it to a friend we see that day. Already acquaintances are relating their own breadmaking stories, asking for a share of my starter. And I’ve got to say: I’m ready.