I swear. These are all connected. If you were to take this title to heart in a last-shall-be-first sort of way, I think you would discover depths far beyond what I even write. You may also get a headache. Forewarned is forearmed.
It was not my intention to make sourdough. I have no opposition to people who do (except that they strike me, generally, as self-important know-it-alls who have figured out how to follow directions and then develop a weird quirk about naming their bread just to rub it in our faces that they have succeeded where the rest of us fail… not that I have given this much thought or anything). It seems noble and resourceful and like the sort of thing the Proverbs 31 woman and Ma Ingalls would smile upon. It’s just that I have failed SO MANY TIMES at it. It is literally just flour and water and paying attention — how could it go so wrong?!
Wait a second… I may have just answered my own question…
Well, anyway, I can see a brick wall as well as most people who have slammed their faces into one and so I gave up being a master of the sourdough years ago (that and I have always been mildly offput by the term “discard”. Recipes that boast of clever uses for their “discard” strike me as the sort of people who develop plans for using human sewage to grow better tomatoes. I am not just being gross. I live in Seattle, Washington. This is actually a proposal on the books. Perhaps if the sourdough gods would rename it something cute, like Joanne or Cuddles I could get behind it, philosophically. Though even as I write this, I see the problem… “Place 1 cup of Joanne in a wide bowl and mix with flour” has Seattle morality written all over it). So when I was recently given a recipe book called Flour that proposed making something called a bread sponge, my eyes lit up — what’s in a name, you ask? A sourdough starter by any other name would still make the bread tangy and fluffy, no? No. The name is everything. The name is the key to conquering the psychology of the thing.
I followed the instructions. Not my strong suit, but there were only instructions for the first 24 hours and my attention span held out that long. Back when the Beloved and I were wee newlyweds, he grew wine grapes and can get pretty nerdy about fermentation and whatnot if properly nudged, so I nudged him. Let’s take a brief interlude to discuss spatial reasoning, Manspeak, and what happens when one is not present and the other is.
In a matter of moments, he had a chart drawn out demonstrating to me the life and death cycles of the sponge. If Manspeak had a love language, it would be graphs and charts. If that is also your love language, then you are in business! Go grow you some nasty bread fungus! But… see… the problem is, I have zero spatial reasoning. Maps, to me, are really only good for coloring (and oh boy, are they good for that. Have you ever tried coloring in Illinois? Beautiful) and graphs are just gibberish spelled backwards (that would be “hsirebbig” for those of you who do have spatial reasoning and are getting confused). Anyway. 30 minutes and one crying jag later, he encouraged me to split my existing sponge in half and see if I could kill them. I put one in the fridge, like the book said, and one in the cupboard. This did lead to the necessity of naming — not the bread, but the sponges, otherwise it gets mixed up. Ergo, Mother lives in the fridge, Auntie lives in the cupboards.
More on that in a minute. First though, we need to get into my current theory as to why my bread is not turning out awesome this week (aunties are so fun — how could they not produce perfect bread, amiright?? Superior Nephew? Hello?). I blame the sliver.
Maybe two months ago, I did an awkward shuffle onto a vindictive splinter of wood that was lying in wait for me on the kitchen floor. It managed to wedge itself directly into the ball of my foot and set up housekeeping. In my defense, I did attempt to remove it. Not being 8 years old or made of rubber, plus having eyesight that appears to be a solid decade more aged than the rest of my person, I had difficulty getting a good visual on the offending house guest. Several days later, I sought my husband and his trusty pocketknife to assist with the eviction, but the nerves in my feet, which are not stable, reliable sorts of characters on the best of days, made the operation unsuccessful (thankfully, I stopped short of giving the poor man a black eye, but barely). I now have a heavily callused sliver fortress on the bottom of my foot, which is about as comfortable as it sounds.
And this obviously explains the pathetic breadmaking of late. Occam’s razor. Simplest explanation is usually the best.
And yet, isn’t that always the way with the tiny slivers of sin that we allow to become embedded? Murder never begins with murder. It begins with low grade irritations, with the uncharitable thoughts you had towards a friend that you believed would biodegrade on their own, with giving yourself permission to be snippy with your children because after all it is their stinking fault that you are tired and cranky today in the first place. Perhaps it is the disrespect you show your husband in the seemingly insignificant, that you justify because after all, he was in the wrong and what is a helpmeet for if not to have the better idea? “Small” sins undealt with develop spiritual calluses. Over time, you will grow less sensitive. Your sin will become harder and harder to pick out of the overwhelming lineup of sins that have sprouted as the result of that splinter sin hitting the bloodstream of your spiritual life. A sin that would have been simple to pluck out with tweezers (am I losing you in the metaphor yet? Repentance. The tweezers are quick repentance. Phew, glad you’re back on board) becomes a part of who you are and the only way to remove it is with an infinitely more painful hack saw (yes. I think amputation is the only way I am getting rid of this sliver). Jesus Christ is risen, which means it can be done, but do not lie to yourself and believe that you won’t feel it or that it will not cost you. But if the splinter is allowed to remain, it will mess with your fruitfulness. Your spiritual bread gets dense, flat, bloated, tasteless or all of the above (let’s pretend I am using my imagination here and not drawing from the last four days in my kitchen).
One little sliver can spoil a lot of bread.