article on sourdough "culture," in all senses of the word

Joined Aug 1, 2002
Hi —_I've duly reviewed the etiquette guidelines and I THINK this
posting is kosher; please forgive me (and let me know nicely) if not.

I'm writing an article for Gastronomica magazine (see
if you're curious) on sourdough starter/culture and the communities
that spring up around it —_the people who (like many of you) share
starter in their neighborhoods or via mail, the folks like Carl Griffith's
Friends who make sure that some starters never stop, et. al.

I have a few anecdote-type questions for your community, if I may:

> Do you have a starter with a great story (really old, from a faraway place, etc..)?
> Do you have any other anedcotes about sourdough "culture," eg having witnessed people coming to blows over issues such as, God forbid, using commercial yeast to start a starter? People who have met and become friends through sharing starter (ie brought together by sourdough)?
>Anything else that pertains, as above, to the CULTURE of homemade
sourdough culture?

Any responses quoted will be duly credited to you and this board, as appropriate (unless for some reason you require sourdough anonymity, which we can discuss).

Thank you so much! Happy baking!

Lynn Harris
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Hi Lynne,

And welcome to cheftalk.

As momoreg said I look forward to reading your work.

I have a funny little story,although it wasn't very funny when it happened.

I hade made a starter quite a few years ago from organic grapes,flour and water.Feed it as I should and tended to it until I was ready to prepare my first sour dough loaf from my starter.

I took what I needed and replaced it with equel amounts of flour and water to feed it.

The bread (which my daughters helped me bake) was excellent.
Well,to make a long story short. After about 9 monthe using this starter my wife thought it had turned bad (because of the smell) and decided to toss it:( thinking it would be better with a "fresh" starter.

Needless to say,nobody touches my starters anymore
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Hello Lynn,

Welcome to Cheftalk.

Several years ago, my teacher gave me some of his father's starter, which had survived crossing the Atlantic (France was the point of origin).
Joined Jul 7, 2002
WelcomeLynne, i had an incident similar to cape Chef's. I had a started that came over on the boat with my wife's grandmother from Russia.As near as we could figure it was about 80 yrs old. i had it at the Rest., and one of my dishwashers thought it was "sour", so he dumped it.
Joined Aug 14, 2000
Hi Lynn - welcome to our little world.

I am an avid (this may be an understatement) sourdough practioner. I'm afraid I don't have any clever anecdotes to share. I do have a couple of observations about those the are similarly possessed.

I have grown several cultures and have sought advice and counsel along the way. What I find most amazing is how willing people of all stripes are to help. From my fellow amateurs on King Arthur Flour's, to the best in the world, such as Peter Reinhart. I can't imagine Bill Gates corresponding with me about troubles with my web site, but I have often traded emails with Chef Reinhart to trouble shoot my sourdough. While I have not yet met others like me in person, I am talking to people all over the world about this stuff.

As to sharing starters, I know that this is part of the culture of sourdough. I find that those truly interested in the world of wild yeast would prefer to grow their own. That's a big part of the mystery and fun! Just one man's opinion :)

Joined Aug 1, 2002
Kyle and others --
Sourdough folks are a strain all their own, we can agree on that, yes? What, in your humble judgment, makes them that way? Is it that starter is like a wee pet? It is the shareability of starter? Any thoughts? Soon? :)
Thanks so far for your responses ...

Regards, Lynn

PS Also, Kyle, I've been scounting 'round to see if there's a sourdough "community" (say, of starter sharers) here in NYC, for a possible local-color spinoff article. Haven't turned up much. You're here, right? Any tips/leads?
Joined Mar 4, 2000
I just revived my starter, after about a year of dormancy. It's as good as ever, and I am once again having a ball making bread. There's a certain pride that I derive from producing a delicious sourdough. I think many people find it intimidating, but it's really just science.
Joined Aug 14, 2000
I think Michelle is right. There is a great deal of satisfaction derived from creating a beautiful, tasty loaf of bread from flour and water. It is the transformation of four basic ingredients into something completely different that sucks me in. If you take a chicken, add all kinds of things on it and in it and throw it in the oven, what comes out of the oven is still a chicken. If you take flour, water, (wild) yeast and salt, and play around with time and temperature, what comes out of the oven is something utterly transformed:)

Lynn - I am in NYC but I am unaware of any local Sourdough Underground. If you find one let me know!
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Making starters and bread give me tremendous satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment.
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Nope, Isa. Just waiting for these Ontario red grapes to arrive in Quebec and for the heat wave to die down! ;)
Joined Nov 20, 2000
Brad, is your wife related to mine? I get the impression that they're "birds of a feather".
When we were first married my wife threw out a custom made spice mixture that was one of a kind, developed by a coworker who is no longer around. She tossed it because she didn't know what it was and figured it wasn't necessary. We're still married even after she had tossed a few other irreplaceable things out. It was close there for a minute though!

But you all have inspired me. I love sourdough but have never gone to the effort even though for the longest time I had an Alaskan Sourdough starter kit. So I think I will find a recipe like CC's with organic grapes and go up here to a local vineyard and beg some grapes for the yeast and try it. (my wife will flip!!!!):eek:
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