An Education of the Wild Yeasts.

In my thirty-six years on this planet, two things have completely eluded me: Jury Duty and Sourdough Starters.

Although not even being considered to sit on a John-Grisham-worthy international espionage trial did bother me, being left out of the sourdough club disturbed me at a more intrinsic level.

I was beginning to think that all of the sourdough starters in the whole world must have died between my childhood and my motherhood, because I remember my mom receiving, using, and eventually killing many starters, and in the in between, making fresh, hot, sourdough bread a semi-regular occurrence. Yet never had I ever even heard of one of my peers having a starter, and never had I ever been offered one myself. Perhaps my mother was actually an Infamous Sourdough Starter Serial Killer and my family had been put on a Don’t Share List. Or perhaps it was me. Not having the ability to produce fresh bread did lend me to feeling Imposter Syndrome at a deep level. I mean, was I even momming?

It was a painful quandary.

I wasn’t ready to tackle the issue of being ignored and/or avoided by the judicial system, but it was past time to address The Mystery of Dough. So in January, I posted this Instagram photo.

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Within a day, I was offered not one, but two starters.

My life had finally begun.

I graciously accepted the starter from the person I would see the soonest. She brought it to me, in an insulated bag, at the Homeschool Spelling Bee. WHERE ALL STARTERS SHOULD EXCHANGE HANDS.

Melissa-The-Sourdough-Fairy gifted me with a large yogurt container with vents cut into the lid, along with a full 8 1/2 x 11 page of typed instructions. This page included a not-to-shabby pedigree for my starter, tracing its roots through two other homeschool moms and 12 years of shares.

And now I was the owner of this beautiful new baby.

I carefully carried it home, placing it gently in my cupholder and looking at it warily, wondering if it would spontaneously bubble out and fill my car. But when we arrived home, there was a present from Thomas-the-Porch-Cat on my welcome mat, as always. Except instead of the usual gag-inducing treats, it was a perfectly preserved chipmunk. I ran inside, placed my starter on the counter, grabbed my camera and props, and ran back out to play. After I appropriately memorialized the beautiful creature left behind just for me, I moved on with my day, extremely satisfied.

That night, when Chris got home, I proudly showed him my starter. I explained to the children my severely limited knowledge of how it worked (thinking, at the time, that I sounded like a seasoned expert), which was the exact point in time that I remembered that it was brought to the spelling bee in an insulated bag. CLEARLY I was supposed to put it in the refrigerator when I got home and now all these hours had passed because I let a chipmunk distract me and oh my goodness did I just kill my first starter before I even produced a single loaf? Maybe serial starter killing does run in my family what have I done!!

Chris, though an eager eater of all homemade goodness, laughed. Then comforted me with the words, “If you killed your sourdough starter because you were too busy staging roadkill, I will love you for that. We’re more of a roadkill homeschool family than a bread-making homeschool family.”

“BUT FRESH BREAD! DON’T YOU WANT FRESH BREAD!”

“Yes but, the story!!”

I did some frantic Googling and discovered that all was okay – I’d likely just made my yeast more hungry, it was hard to kill a starter, and it would probably prove itself to be alive the first time I fed it.

I quickly refrigerated it, and fed it as soon as my instruction pamphlet allowed. It happily ate the food, grew, and then grew into a lovely dough upon mixing.

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I made my first ever sourdough loaves, and finally felt like a Real Housewife of The Deep South.

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Regardless of his feelings about what kind of homeschool family we are, my husband was incandescently happy with the hot fresh bread slathered in freshly mixed honey butter (or butter honey, as Noah prefers it to be called) that I had coming out of the oven as he walked in the door from a wet run.

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As the weeks passed and the successful loaves stacked up, I became obsessed with my little pet, reading more about what a starter really is, and even buying the new novel, Sourdough, which only deepened my understanding and unhealthy adoration of my starter. I have since been going around explaining to everyone what starters are and how they work.

Because you see. There are wild yeasts floating all around us. And you catch them and create a starter by leaving out flour and water for a week, feeding it more flour and water and taking some out. The wild yeasts are all like “Well, honey, doesn’t that look like a delicious home!” and set up a colony in your paste. Furthermore, Wild Yeasts like to travel with their BFFs, good bacteria, and those guys are super protective of their yeasty friends. So they guard their new encampment, refusing entry to bad bacteria, gross mold, or other things that might want a crack at your lovely flour and water.

(Except if I tried this, The Porch Cat would, with certainty, vomit directly into the starter, and no good bacteria can hold that sturdy a stronghold.)

It’s a genius system, clearly proving that God wants us eating bread. And people have been catching these wild yeasts for 5,000 years. So OBVIOUSLY, Sourdough is Paleo.

THEN, the wild yeast feast on the gluten of the flour, supposedly (though I haven’t had a gluten-sensitive test subject yet) making the end product gluten free. Because they pre-digest the gluten for you, turning it into gases which make your bread rise and create those lovely sourdough air pockets in your finished product. So apparently, wild yeasts are also gluten sensitive, because it gives them the worst gas.

As I became more and more intrigued by my paleo, gluten-free, basically-a-vegetable bread made for me by an entire microbial universe, I found myself perhaps in an unhealthy existential relationship with my bread. Because that’s normal, right? I pondered their civilization, their families, their lives, and hoped that when I cooked one cup of them, they’d sent me the penal colony of yeasts – perhaps the ones that had committed yeasty crimes were the ones in my measuring cup. It was like olden Australia, but the penalty for your crimes was being baked into a loaf. Because otherwise I was baking my chefs and eating my artisan breadmakers. It was all very confusing. But that didn’t stop me from making the world’s best hamburger between my dead pets.

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Meanwhile, I was making multiple loaves every week, and instead of a January Whole 30, we had a January Dough 30, and let me tell you – it’s a much more delightful way to spend that miserable month.

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I spread my loaves around to friends and family as best I could, although I must say it was difficult – there were multiple times that I was going to take a loaf to someone who had a death in the family or a sick child, only to remember at the last minute that they were gluten-free, or paleo, or on a ketone diet, or some other such limiting factor. I felt like getting all loud and Oprah-ish and in some faces about HOW AWESOME BREAD IS, but I didn’t. I just kept my bread and quietly ate another slice slathered in butter honey.

I even made three varieties of Stromboli with my dough, which had been for a long time one of Chris’ favorite creations from my mom (although she made it with regular bread, since she long ago murdered her sourdough starters.) Now I really felt like I had arrived in wifedom.

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Then my wild yeasts had a baby. (i.e. I fed them but then didn’t feel good and so didn’t make dough.) If you do this, you’re supposed to throw away a cup of starter to make them think you made dough, but although I can bake my tiny friends, I cannot just dump them down the drain to live out their existence in the septic tank. Talk about a penal colony. Septic tank wild yeasts are definitely the kind of colony that will rise up through the drainpipes, riding on steeds of poop, and drown you in your sleep.

So instead, I made a baby.

I took an old sour cream container, cut vents in the lid, and made a new starter. Then I messaged my small group.

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Nikki was the chosen new owner of my fresh baby yeast puppy.

I took the bundle of joy to her with a copy of my sheet of instructions/family tree. I am positive that when Nikki got home that night, she did not get distracted by roadkill and mistreat her puppy. However, I did check in with her the next morning to see how he slept his first night in his new home, and she told me that he was great, he’d slept well, and that she’d named him Yeastopher.

That’s right. Clearly Nikki deserves a wild yeast universe more than I. It had not, until that moment, occurred to me to name mine.

Naturally, I spent all day pondering the possibilities, and finally settled on Kanyeast. Pronounced (so you won’t be embarrassed if you ever find yourself addressing my yeast family,) as con-YAYst. Then I updated my feeding log to show my true love for my Yeast Puppy Colony Universe.

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So, yo bread, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but sourdough is one of the best loaves of all time…one of the best loaves of all time.

Helpful Tips for an Extreme Time.

So our lives have come to this.

All that we care about, all day, every day, is not catching The Flu.

Am I right?

So I’ve compiled a list of helpful tips for all of us to keep fighting the good fight.

  • Wear a Camelbak filled with Purell at all times. Perfect for squeezing onto hands – or into mouths – and noses and eyeballs and earholes – at the sight of other humans.

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  • Place plastic grocery sacks over your children’s heads before going in public. Make sure to tie each sack snugly at the nape of the neck. Double bag the babies and the elderly.

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  • When heading out to lunch with a friend, be sure to pack a vial of Truth Serum to force a confession as to whether they have any traces of oncoming illness and/or have laid eyes on anyone under siege of the flu.
  • Flu germs are killed by heat. Therefore, the best way to defeat the flu is to locate Fezzik and borrow his Holocaust Cloak for the rest of the season.

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  • Stuff five peeled elderberries into each nostril before going to sleep each night. For babies under the age of one, two elderberries per nostril will suffice. Remember that your noses and ears never quit growing, so for anyone over the age of 55, consider doubling the elderberry-to-nostril count.
  • Infants and the elderly are at the highest risk. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you immediately disassociate with all infants and elderly.
  • Serve everyone in the family an after-dinner cocktail of Clorox to process the day’s germs. Garnish with a Tide Pod.

 

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  • If you’ve been potentially exposed to the flu, have a bonfire for all clothes and any children or pets that came into direct contact with the infected party.
  • Take daily doses of Tamiflu until June. Yes, it will cost $4,500 per person and will burn your intestines into a nice turgid jerky. But could that be worse than the flu? We all know it is not.
  • When checking out at the grocery store, spritz the cashier with a spray hand sanitizer with the same passion that you would douse an attacker in pepper spray. Make sure you target their face, mouth, and hands. Only after this spritz do you allow them to scan your items.

 

If we can all do these things on a daily basis, then maybe we can survive as a people group.

Remember – you’re not just doing it for yourself – you’re doing it for the herd.

Diary of a Tired Mom: Dead of Winter Edition

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I’m afraid that all of my motivation and Type A-Ness was housed in my uterus. It’s been nearly six weeks since its removal, and I don’t feel like running, eating vegetables, eating less Christmas chocolate, writing, cleaning, educating my children (which I am managing to do anyway – whether quality education or not), or really much of anything else.

I mean, I kinda want to do those things, but my ability to make myself is….lacking.

I am positive that my motivation has been morcellated and yanked out through my bellybutton in confetti-sized pieces. I signed a lot of paperwork for that surgery, but I know I didn’t approve that.

My Only Hope is that it is actually the deadly mixture of the cold hellish depths of winter and the lack of uterus that is actually causing this steep decline in productivity, and that, come spring, I’ll be a normally contributing member of society yet again.

Which brings me to this pondering…

The idea of New Years Resolutions is the stupidest idea of the entire human race. Amie’s comment on this post caused me to ruminate on the absolute awful timing of this concept, and I think we need to lobby for legislation to be passed to END THIS IDIOCY.

How could there be a worse time to try and make huge overhauling lifestyle and diet changes than right after the end of the holidays (depressing!), when we still have loads of chocolate (yum!), in the deepest, darkest, coldest part of winter (we need those carbs to survive!), and besides the fact that January in general is proven to be the crappiest month of the year?

We are literally torturing ourselves into extinction with New Years Resolutions. This is probs what happened to dinosaurs and dodos.

In their place, I propose that we should have Daylight Savings Time* Resolutions. A clunkier naming, sure, but so. much. smarter. We shall diet and exercise when we get our extra hour of daylight back, when Spring is starting to peek around the corner, and when hope fills the world once more, when fruits and vegetables are available in abundance – that’s when we have the energy and mental fortitude for such things as resolutions!

*OBVIOUSLY, I would rather pass legislation to stay in Daylight Savings Time all year round, but if I can’t do that, No More New Years Resolutions is a close second.


You know that bizarre list of traditional wedding gifts that includes romantic notions such as tin and wool? I think we need to make that list more practical and rewrite it to be entirely made up of re-buying wedding presents as they run out of their useful lives.

1st Year: You don’t have any money, but you’re still coasting by on fresh wedding presents. Anyway, your love is gift enough. Maybe splurge and buy a bag of celery.

2nd Year: There is definitely a random minor appliance you got for a wedding present that was a lemon and has now quit working. Is it a can opener? Iron? Vegetable chopper? Replace that bad boy. Otherwise you’ll spend the next five years frustrated that you didn’t.

5th Year: Your comforter is old and has pills on the fabric, not to mention that nasty stain from that one time you tried to drink cranberry juice in your bed while half-sleep. Plus, you probably hate that design by now. This year’s New Traditional gift is: ALL NEW BEDDING!

6th Year: Those three times you’ve actually attempted to iron, you definitely melted something. From now on, every attempt to flatten wrinkles will also include appliqueing old burnt plastic onto the item of clothing. But just throw the thing away. You’re never going to figure out the ironing thing, and the dryer plus a damp washcloth works passably for your level of domesticity.

8th Year: Yo – truth time. Your towels are disgusting. They’re ragged on some edges and pulled into tight spirals on others. They have bleach spots even though you’ve never used bleach your entire marriage. The gift of the year is towels. Your butts will thank you.

10th Year: You are on your second toddler and he has now thrown away all your forks and half your spoons, leaving you to attempt to shovel steak into your mouth on your ridged grapefruit spoon. It’s time for the gift of silverware. But don’t buy that ridiculous $50-a-place-setting kind that you received as wedding presents – at this stage of your life, it’s best to invest in the 108 piece box set on clearance at TJ Maxx. You still have a toddler, after all.

11th Year: Did you know you were supposed to replace your mattress last year? Happy Anniversary! Go lay on 257 mattresses and freak out about the most anxiety-inducing purchase you’ll ever make. And – spoiler – you’ll still pick the wrong one. Then you will attempt to use The Force to hurry along the next ten years so you can try again to get it right. (You won’t.)

17th Year: Your bowls are all chipped, and your plates are ravaged with silverware scrape lines. This year’s traditional gift is a new set of casual china. Plus – c’mon. Your taste in dinnerware was crap when you gleefully danced through Macy’s with that delightful registry gun. Now it’s time to get something you really like.

…But no matter how many years you’re married, the gift of the year is NEVER a Kitchen-Aid mixer, because those things never die – even if you’d really like an excuse to get one of those fancy multicolored ones.


24-36 hours after I cut onions (no less, no more), when I take a hot shower, once the room gets steamy, my shower is filled with the smell of fresh onion – as if I were standing in the middle of a 500-acre onion farm and just pulled up a perfect onion bulb. I believe that my skin is an organic diffuser that is specially adjusted to diffuse the onion’s essential oils. My superpowers are marketable – that is, unless everyone has this skill. Please report in immediately.