This is my story. It is a story of longing and loss, hardship and horror, failure and redemption. It is a story of hubris and perseverance. It is a story that is only remotely related to nature. It is a story of carbohydrates, and the lengths to which one man will go to obtain the gluten he craves.
All I wanted was bread. Real, warm, freshly baked bread. With substance, and actual crust. Something you could spread butter on and not have it dissolve like this cheap Bimbo crap which is all supermarkets here carry. It’s been a rough quarantine, and with our food budget dwindling down to mostly rice and beans, I was seeking respite in something familiar, comforting yet simple.
So like a good Millennial I asked around for recipes to make DIY sourdough, pulling leavening yeast out of thin air like a pastry-themed conjurer, and putting the most basic ingredients of flour and water together for some culinary magic. My coworkers would swoon and salivate. I would earn their respect, their admiration, and also enjoy some goddamn bread.
What I failed to take into account is that sourdough is a food tradition that originated in temperate climates. Here, the air is full of so much more stray moisture, microbes, spores, and various airborne germs. There’s a reason people don’t make their own bread here. What follows is a record of my folly, in what I’m sure you’ll believe is a legitimate timely record and not retroactively embellished at all:
Trial 1: April 21st, 8:00pm
The starter mixture is prepared. I had to adjust the ratio of water to flour to account for humidity, but luckily I planned that in advance. I’m so clever. Now, all I have to do is wait for wild yeast to culture. Surely, this will be a triumph for science and not a spectacular punishment for my hubris.
April 22nd, 7:00am
Little change yet, but I wasn’t expecting much growth overnight. Still, there’s something about that smell that’s troubling. It’s faint, but it’s not what I would call bread dough. It’s more…hateful than that. Hateful? Why would that word come to mind? Also there seems to be far more fluid in there than I originally put in. No matter, I still have another day to go so I’ll just leave this here in my office where it’ll get plenty of sun.
April 22nd, 7:30pm
What have I done? Whatever I created in that jar wasn’t yeast. It must have been some kind of bacteria. Although right now I’m leaning more towards “abomination.” And it escaped containment. Why did I leave this in my office? The smell isn’t so much “hateful” as it is “diabolical.” It’s like a vengeful compost pit. Like a cart of overripe fruit fell into a thermal vent. And it clings to everything it touches! I swear I saw it moving too.
April 22nd 8:05pm
Ok, I think I have the specimen contained, and my office sterilized. I’m just going to let it air out overnight. Meanwhile, I have to decide what to do with the starter. If it’s a bacteria, it’s probably aerobic and creating toxic compounds. But it looks right, so I’m going to try to make dough out of part of it as an experiment.
April 22nd 8:55
Wow, that actually looks pretty good. It certainly rose. In fact, you’d think it was normal bread if it wasn’t for the smell. I think I’ll try a little.
April 22nd 8:56m
No. Nope. That was a mistake. Oh god kill me now.
Trial 2: April 24th 5:30pm
I had to get new jars for this, since I wasn’t able to completely sterilize the last ones. That starter just refused to die. I tried soaking them in bleach, but I think that just made it stronger. Anyway, this time I’ve added even less water and I’m going to leave multiple jars in a more sterile environment with less sun.
April 25th, 8:00am
Damn it, that same smell is back already. God, I’m going to be dreaming about this, and you’re not even supposed to be able to smell in dreams! Man, that is ripe. Forget respect, I’ll be lucky if my coworkers don’t murder me honor-killing style for this.
Trial 3: April 26th, 7:00pm
Someone suggested I try adding a little salt. I also reduced the water even further. The starter is practically putty now. Take that, noxious microbes!
April 27th, 6:30pm
You know what? I’m not even going to check on it. I’ll give it one more day. And ignore that smell.
April 28th, 4:00pm
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
Trial Omega: April 29th, 9:00pm
Tonight, I mixed together flour and water. Accounted for humidity. Kneaded it into dough. And then I dunked that shit into boiling oil. That’s right, I made goddamn donuts. They were perfect. They were delicious. They came out hearty and crispy, just how I like them. I summoned my coworkers to partake in the feast. They swooned and salivated. They respected me. We tried injecting them with pineapple filling and it was the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted.
This is the universe talking: man is not meant to eat bread in the jungle. It just doesn’t work. Instead, he is meant to fry his starch in respect of nature. In triumph over microbes. In the name of science.