Sourdough death

Sourdough English muffins (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

Some people may have had their first introduction to a sourdough starter during the COVID shutdown. It was a novelty and necessity. Making bread became a family activity. Store bread was sometimes unavailable, and there was a yeast shortage. I loved watching all the recipes being posted on social media and the resurgence of bread making.

I’d been using a sourdough starter since the early ’90s when I was on a business trip to San Francisco. I stayed longer to visit a friend in Oakland. Her mother gave me a bit of her family’s sourdough starter. I’m not sure if all guests were gifted jars of dough, but I left her house with the knowledge to make bread.

At the time, I traveled frequently for work. It was also before 9/11, so I could have traveled with a bottle of vodka, and no one would have batted an eye. This little bubbly mixture didn’t even get me flagged. If anything, I was just another person thinking they could reproduce a San Fran sourdough loaf.

I took my job as keeper of the sourdough quite seriously. If I was out of town for an extended time, I had my roommate “feed” my starter. Once I was confident I could keep a fermented product active, I added a few plants to my list of things to keep alive. As I traveled less, I added a garden, pets, husband, children and an elderly parent to my list of items to nurture and protect. My children grew up making bread at home. Later on they even learned to make bread at school. We are a family of bread makers and bread eaters.

I forgot about the starter. After the pandemic, I think breadmaking became associated with being stuck in our house. My children didn’t look at making bread the way they did before COVID. So, I just stopped regularly feeding the starter. I started storing it in the fridge. I only took it out on occasion. It was no longer part of my routine. While recently cleaning the fridge, I took out my starter and found it hard and moldy. I murdered a 30-year-old sourdough starter.

My children can’t fathom keeping anything alive for 30 years. They have not entered their sourdough starter stage. Though I’ve gotten offers for a new starter or could make my own, I will follow my kids’ lead and let other people make the bread.

As my son always says, “Just think how we can support the local economy.”


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