I am looking at an old photo of the sourdough mother my friend Phyllis made and gave to me 9 years ago. She passed away two years ago and baking with this starter is like we can meet in a land that is not here or there. We can meet outside of time because I can touch something she touched that is alive in the past and in the present.
I don’t get to talk with her everyday, but I am so thankful I can still be connected with her through what she shared with me. We tried to make a calendar together once. We planned activities around baking for others. Her voice lives on in hundreds and hundreds of emails we shared with ideas around food, family, faith, and living. The emails are like mixtapes I can listen to and celebrate our friendship.
Her emails and photos don’t make me as homesick as to think of the day she gave me this starter. Maybe because today I can look at it as an early parting gift we could have not thought of. Inadvertently, she gave me a way to keep going, a way to keep on baking my emotions and feelings into it. Baking bread is not like reading in the past. Bread answers in the moment.
I am still baking with her. She started this culture with pineapple juice and I remember being in such awe as I baked a loaf then as I am tonight.
Tonight’s bread was Laura Valli’s “no-recipe” 100% rye sourdough. I used whey instead of water for the liquid levain. I have been wanting to make this bread for a long time. I love she explained women in Estonia, including her mom, pokes 3 holes in the bread and let it rise. We will know it’s ready to bake when they are “barely visible” maybe I grew a little impatient in this cold Maine morning. I can’t wait to cut it tomorrow. Thank you Laura for the inspiration.