Sourdough Starter Struggles

Today’s journal entry is about the progress of my sourdough starter. I’ve discarded two batches and started a new one last Monday in a smaller mason jar. I was having a hard time managing the large jars that I initially used. I think I’m able to manage Grimer better with the smaller jar.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been an emotional roller coaster, but I think I’m forgetting that the most important ingredient here is time. I get impatient and either overfeed or underfeed my starter. If I don’t see any activity right away, I get impatient. Now I think I’m getting the rhythm of feeding the starter right, and the bubbles are increasing. Grimer is becoming more “active”, and I’m just going to take my time and make him stronger.

This little foray of mine into bread making is very educational not just because I learned a lot about what actually happens when you make a sourdough starter, or when you bake  bread, but also because I’m reminded that when you do things by hand, they take time. I’m not just talking about the cooking/baking process itself but the learning process. All good things take time. Grimer is sure taking his sweet time.

In the final chapter of Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked, he wrote about what he learned from a Korean woman regarding “hand taste”. Food can come from factories or fast food chains and they can be edible as they are uniform, but they don’t have “hand taste”, which is like the human signature. When you cook something, especially if you do it for someone, you share a bit of yourself in the process.

“Hand taste, however, involves something greater than mere flavor. It is the infinitely more complex experience of a food that bears the unmistakable signature of the individual who made it—the care and thought and idiosyncrasy that that person has put into the work of preparing it. Hand taste cannot be faked, Hyeon Hee insisted, and hand taste is the reason we go to all this trouble, massaging the individual leaves of each cabbage and then folding them and packing them in the urn just so. What hand taste is, I understood all at once, is the taste of love.”

― Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

I just love that. Sure, I can buy bread in a store and it would probably be easier, but I still want to learn how to make it myself. Not just because it’s healthier but also because I want to make it with my own  hands and impart my own hand taste to it.

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