I made some Christmas gifts today.
(“It’s weeks past Christmas!” you say. To which I reply, “Why, yes, it is. But this is the time I could make a gift. If you want to complain about my timing I’ll keep my gift to myself, thankyouverymuch.”)
The truth is I exhausted all of my creativity making a cookbook of my favorite sourdough recipes and gave a handful of friends the cookbook and a jar of sourdough starter.
When I handed it out at Bible Study tonight they acted pleased and I want to believe them. In fact, because I like sourdough so much I’m going to assume they’ve been waiting their whole lives to have an opportunity to cook with sourdough starter.
Though there’s a niggling thought in the back of my mind, “What if they aren’t excited to get the sourdough starter? What if they think sourdough is as high-maintenance as friendship bread?”
I’ve done the friendship bread thing. A good friend (ha, ha) mailed me friendship bread starter from Wisconsin. It survived its journey through the U.S. postal service and arrived, happy and intact.
I made the friendship bread. I experimented with the friendship bread. I donated the friendship bread to hungry college students. The friendship bread became a millstone around my neck, always wanting to be kneaded and turned and baked and such. It was terribly needy. Our relationship wasn’t working out.
Finally I broke up with the friendship bread. I gave my starter to a nice young man from South Dakota and washed my hands of it.
But my sourdough starter is not like that. This starter has been with our family since the 1960s, when my mom started it off of a packet from Knott’s Berry Farm. Our starter is a member of the family.
Some people might find it kind of gross that I’m regularly eating bread from something that’s been alive longer than I have. Or they may be concerned that a happy sourdough starter, filled with bubbles and activity, is actually a live organism.
I totally get that. But those naysayers are missing out, because my starter can whip up a batch of waffles and pancakes whose taste cannot be beaten! The french bread — oh! It’s to die for! And just today I discovered I can make flour tortillas with my sourdough, so I have a brand new recipe to try and love!
Sourdough is awesome. And it has a great history.
San Francisco gets all the credit for sourdough, but the reality is sourdough starter made life for the pioneers and sooners good before San Francisco was on the map. They were able to bring their starter with them on covered wagons and make bread as they rode along.
Once frontiersmen reached California for the gold rush in the mid-1800s the prospectors would wear their sourdough starter in a pouch around their neck or at their waist. See, sourdough is sociable and utilitarian!
Admittedly, our modern-day lives don’t require us to wear yeasty batter as a fashion accessory, but I love the idea of sourdough anyway. (The taste is pretty yummy as well.) The grocery store just can’t compare with its preservative-filled breaded goodies.
Do you have traditions that are throwbacks to olden times? What are they?