Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Rise of Sourdough

my starter in its refrigerated home
and one of its offspring to the left
Yesterday (Wed.) there was a feature about sourdough in the New York Times--a feature that, today, is listed as the #1 shared story from the Times' website. (Link to that story.) It's a fairly conventional, basic piece about what sourdough is, how you can acquire some (naturally or with some $$), how to store and use it, etc. The piece notes the increasing popularity of the substance with home bakers.

And from my own Facebook experiences recently, this seems true. I've had several inquiries about my own use of it--I post an annoying picture every Sunday (usually my baking day) of whatever I've made that day, usually just a couple of loaves for the week (and to share with my son and his family).

I've written here about my sourdough previously, and I will do so again: This coming August my starter will reach its thirtieth birthday. Hard for me to imagine.

Back in 1986 I was teaching The Call of the Wild to my 8th graders, and I was becoming fanatical about all things related to that book--including, of course, the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-99), the historical event that serves as the setting for Jack London's 1903 novella. I was reading all of London's other work (he wrote 50 books in 15 years!).

My interest had recently deepened even more because I'd learned that my own great-grandfather had gone on that Rush--had kept a diary (which I now have). So in the summer of 1986 I decided our son, Steve (who'd just turned 14), and I would go to Alaska and retrace my great-grandfather's journey into the Canadian Yukon. (That previous year I'd taught Steve in 8th grade.)

We flew to Seattle, to Juneau, then by prop plane (piloted by a young man who seemed about Steve's age) to Skagway, Alaska, where my great-grandfather had commenced his journey over the mountains, a Gold Rush town that is one of the settings in The Call of the Wild. We rented a car and drove the 439 miles (thank you, Google Maps) to Dawson City (overnight in Whitehorse). We saw not only "Dyer" sites along the way, of course, but many of the places London names in The Call of the Wild.

Anyway, on the way back, resting in Skagway (at the old Golden North Hotel--a place we loved), we did some walking and sight-seeing and shopping (I bought some stuff to show my classes). And it was then that I found some packets of sourdough starter and a little booklet about how to use it. On a whim I bought the stuff (a few bucks?). During the Gold Rush the veterans up there were called "sourdoughs" (rookies were "cheechakos"), and sourdough is permanently linked to that event.

Not long after we got back home (Hudson, Ohio), I decided to try the stuff. I'd already been doing most of our bread-baking for nearly twenty years (I'd begun in our early-marriage penury), and I was ready for something new. So I took out the packet, followed the directions (mixing it with flour and warm water, covering it in a bowl), and felt like Victor Frankenstein when I came down the next morning and found it bubbling merrily away.

It's alive! It's alive!


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