The Starter

 

In my telling of our love story, we meet at summer camp. David is twenty and the head counselor and I show up as an eighteen year old newbie to be a counselor to some rather raucous 14 year olds. Your street cred in camp is how many years you’d been there for, and I’d been there for exactly none. I wasn’t sitting on top of the totem pole.

But it is summer camp in Pennsylvania so very little can be bad.

I had heard of this David for a while. He was able to jump over a lot of garbage cans which seemed to add value to his reputation. A bunch of friends thought he was quite adorable. He was mostly shy around girls which just made him all the more desirable when compared to the loud hormonal boys we were used to. But when I got to camp, he was already in the throes of camp culture. His hair was Einstein-huge. There was a Tom Hanks in Castaway beard. He wore rain boots a lot. And he carried a clipboard. I took one look at him and realized there were dozens of new boys. This one seemed a little Too Camp for me.

We were on and off friends for six years. We kept in touch, hung out a bit but that was it. From time to time, his girlfriends would call me up and ask for my advice. We were all part of the same group of friends so I figured why not. And a mere six years later we started dating.

On our first date we ran into one of our campers. She joined us. She never would have imagined that we’d be dating so it just seemed to her like she was hanging out with her old counselors. And she sort of was.

I was a particularly not great girlfriend. It seemed super obvious to me that we’d get married so the whole dating process seemed unnecessary. David was a bit more cautious. He figured we should probably date for a while. I indulged him. So we dated for a bit. He learned I had a hard time with pronouns like “us” and “we”. Little words describing big relationships made me squeamish. And three months later we were engaged. And three months after that we were married.

In all that time, I don’t believe the word “bread” was mentioned once – certainly not in the context of what we were going to do with our lives. David was finishing up Smicha in the Gush and I was about to start a job as the Assistant Director of Young Judaea’s Year Course. At no point did we think that those were great gateway careers to the world of artisan baking. We figured we would be educators. We were creative. We enjoyed teaching. So we thought we’d head down that road for a while. And we did. For a while.

 

Sourdough Starter.

  • Take equal amounts of flour and warm water (maybe a bit more flour, maybe around a cup of each). Try for a fresh stone-ground whole wheat flour, if you can (but anything will do).
  • Mix it up with your fingers. It will be mushy and sticky, a batter-like dough.
  • Let it sit for a couple of days (side note: this is why David is the artisan baker in the family and I’m in charge of cookies. I cannot let anything sit still for a couple of days. It would make me crazy).
  • After a few days you will some activity – some bubbles, maybe some frothing. At that point, dispose of about half of the starter and add equal parts of flour and warm water (this time half a cup as opposed to a full cup of each) to the remaining starter.
  • Wait another day or two until you see some activity. Then dispose half and add more. Keep repeating as you watch your starter grow. Once your starter is stable and predictable, you’re ready to open your bakery.