Monday, March 13, 2006


Sourdough = obsession.

Serious obsession! You know, the adolescent kind? When you rationalize stalking your beloved on the internet. Not that the CC ever did that. They hadn't invented the internet then; you had to use the telephone.

Why is it obsessive?

The answer is rather easy. Complete and utter lack of control. And good cooks tend to be control-freaks (along with good programmers, and good just-about-anything.) Perfection is only a detail away, and if only you could control the details...

Maybe this time, I'll be lucky. Maybe this time, it'll stay. Maybe this time, for the first time, it'll rise...

But, will it? And if not, why not?

You're dealing with a rather delicate symbiosis which you can actually turn into a rather robust symbiosis. (Once again, perfection is only some details away.)

Native yeast (they're in the air), and benign bacteria aid each other, and you can use them to make bread. (this is a complex subject for future discussion.) Suffice to say, for a couple of thousand years nobody has died of botulism thanks to this symbiosis.

Why is it not controllable? Too many variables. Temperature is one, but there are plenty of others.

So sourdough takes the traditional cooking attitude (="take a recipe and make it"), and puts a stake through its heart.

Take that you control-freak, bitch!

No wonder cooks obsess about getting it right (what did I say about obsession?)

Alas, the CC is hardly immune to this obsession. I have tried for two years and I openly admit to being less than perfect. (The failures can be converted into "alternate" successes for rather beautiful chemical reasons. Isn't that peachy?) But if the CC were to be honest, he has only had a handful of successes (and to be fair, more recently than initially.)

Incidentally, sourdough encompasses more than bread. Anyone, from the southern states knows of sourdough pancakes (the real kind not the modern crap!) And traditional idlis, dosas and utthapams from Southern India are actually sourdough.

Why the south in the last two examples? They tend to have warmer climates, and hence are more conducive to sourdough (although San Francisco is an exception for rather technical reasons.)

Is this a blog entry or a lecture? Not sure, really!

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