My sourdough culture is dead. Again.
I don’t know why I can’t seem to get this thing to live. I am alive. My pets are alive. Even my incredibly finicky bonsai tree is alive (and blooming!). But this little colony of yeast and lactobacillus just isn’t happy with me.
I try to do the right thing. I feed it organic flour and water without too much chlorine in it. I weigh everything carefully to ensure the proportions are correct. But my sourdough just bubbles halfheartedly at me from its jar. I’ve tried several times to make it into bread, only to have it sit, dismal and sour like my teenage cousin that time her parents dragged her to Great Aunt Ida’s birthday party.
As I dumped my deceased culture into my compost bin, I asked myself why it mattered anyways. Why is so important to me to get this flour and water to rise into a fluffy loaf of goodness, when I could just go buy bread at the store like everyone else?
I think it’s because I should be able to make bread. I mean, it’s just flour, water and salt! How can I suck so badly at making something as fundamental as a loaf of bread?
It is one thing to not be able to make a car or a computer. I don’t mind lacking the ingrained knowledge to repair the space shuttle. But I don’t feel like I should need corporate assistance to make what is, for me, a staple food. Something that feels wrong about that, like kids who don’t realize the part of the carrot that we eat is a root that grows under the ground. Shouldn’t we know these things?
Kids today are growing up with a new set of “fundamental survival skills.” They manage a diverse range of online identities. They seem to effortlessly walk the line between their online and physical lives (or perhaps for them that line has faded away entirely). And that is a good thing, because they will need to be masters of that world.
But what if they lost access to Easy Mac, ramen and delivery pizza? Would they be able to turn the contents of their pantry or their garden into a decent meal? Would they know how to tell a carrot from a weed? Would you?
This kind of knowledge is a certain type of resilience that many of us have lost over the past several generations. I don’t think it’s something we can afford to lose for much longer.
So I’ve been working on it for myself. I’m getting much better at making actual meals from the food in my pantry. My freezer is filled with chicken stock instead of Hot Pockets. But I still can’t tell food sproutlings from baby weeds. And my sourdough is dead.
I am determined to keep learning and trying. Because you can’t eat Farmville vegetables, no matter how hard you try. But you can eat a nice loaf of sourdough bread.