Please, feed your mother - making sourdough in a pandemic

I hate to admit it.

I thought I was different, not like all those other sheeples.

I thought I had standards, that I didn't just go with the flow, that I would hold firm.

But I just couldn't take it anymore. The temptation was too severe. And when someone put some of the good stuff right into my hand, I gave in.

That's right. I've started making sourdough bread.

In what has become something of a universal fad during the coronavirus isolation period, everyone and their mother are making sourdough from scratch.

It's something that requires you to be around for several hours the day before you bake (working from home, so yes, tick), costs almost nothing (especially when compared to the $8 artisanal loaf up the road - tick), and impresses your friends (or perhaps infuriates them) on social media. Tick!

It's like it was designed for this stage of our lives.

And even though the dough needs several hours of preparation before you bake it, the input from the baker is actually about five minutes - all up. The rest of the time it just sits there.

So if lockdown has been a crazy time for you - working from home with dodgy internet, homeschooling the kids plus juggling all those Zoom catch ups, this is the bread for you.

I'm sure all those people who made sourdough before it was famous are quietly fuming at us johnny-come-latelies posturing about it on Facebook and Instagram.

If that's you, then I'm sorry, but also - we owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

Because you're the ones passing on the crucial starting point, that jar of foaming goodness on which sourdough relies - the mothers.

That's what us sourdough aficionados call the starter cultures.

Some even talk about 'her' as a person - for example, "She makes great bread" and "Don't forget to feed your mother".

The latter makes these people sound like they have Granny locked up in the attic and need reminding to slip a tray of gruel through a slot in the door, but never mind.

Since you have to feed the starter a little flour and water every day, people tend to accumulate quite a lot of it, meaning they have plenty to give away.

It's like the Tamagotchi craze crossed with a chain letter where I live - everyone's passing it onto everyone else, and we're all staying home to either feed them or fold the resulting dough every hour.

It's actually really easy and fun (trust me, I wouldn't do it if it was hard, or required more maths than 380 plus 100 plus 500, which is the water, starter and flour amounts).

The results are quite gobsmackingly amazing and a reminder that there is wonder in the simple things. Who would have thought that water plus flour plus time could make this happen? (Well, quite a few people over the last few millennia - I guess I mean that I personally wouldn't have thought of it.)

Actually, it's not just sourdough starters that are doing the rounds in my little town.

There's a bit of online crop swapping (because the real-life one had to stop due to COVID-19), a black market in bikes (to keep up with the resurgence of cycling) and lots of passing around of books (because the libraries are shut).

In normal circumstances, we're quite independent - that is, most of us, most of the time.

But dealing with the many and various effects of coronavirus has turned many of us towards each other in a way that I can't recall in my lifetime.

It didn't happen at the start - in fact, there was a lot of painful selfishness and fear on display.

But as people have settled into the rhythm of it, communities are losing their defensiveness and building connections.

I don't know if I could have guessed that one of those connections would be jars of frothing bread starter, but life is full of surprises.

Now excuse me, I have to go and feed my mother.

Comments