Baking Bread at the End of the World

Behold my glorious mess in the making!

When the world is on fire, I bake bread. That’s what I decided this week. The Great Sourdough Experiment has begun!

As I mentioned before, I’ve been wanting to make my own sourdough starter for a bit. Given that the grocery stores here are now completely out of bread (and eggs, and milk, and of course toilet paper), I figured now’s as good a time as any to give it a shot.

Getting a starter going is supposed to take about a week or so. Today was Day 1. I spent approximately five hours double-checking websites and cookbooks and back alleys before finally settling on the idea of just doing the thing. It took about five minutes.

I should note here that I’ve already gone off book. Pretty much all the recipes I saw called for around a cup of whole wheat flour. I ended up using 1/4 cup. Call it personal choice. Really, I just didn’t want to waste a bunch of flour on an experiment that may fail hard. I don’t know when I might be able to find flour on the grocery store shelves again.

So my ultimate recipe was: 40g whole wheat flour (King Arthur stone-ground White Wheat Flour) and 40g water. It dawns on me now as I write this that whole wheat flour and white wheat flour may not be the same thing. Hmm… Isn’t this fun?

I measured and added the contents into a small jar and mixed thoroughly, all while explaining to my son what we were doing. I use “we” quite loosely here, much in the same but inverted way that “we” were watching his iPad the entire time. But I digress.

We got the job done. And now a New Thing sits on our kitchen counter. The next few days should be entertaining as we feed and care for our new pet and watch it grow. And it dawns on me now that I should probably start figuring out the next steps of how to actually bake bread, and what kind of things I can bake with this thing.

Schools are cancelled for at least the next couple weeks here, so this is how I’m going to be teaching my son. I don’t know new math. I don’t know any of the classroom songs. And I don’t know how to make my own bread. This week, I’m going to remedy one of those things.

What a Month This Week Has Been

I’ve only ever seen limit signs on empty shelves.

So yeah, things are weird out there. I feel like this entire week has been spent bouncing between grocery store treasure hunts (because really, we can’t call it shopping these days), scanning the news for pandemic-related updates, scanning the news for anything other than pandemic-related updates, and washing. Washing all the things. Hands, countertops, magazines that arrive in the mail. You hand it to me, I’ll wash it. And I’ll probably ask if you washed that hand.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. But probably not as much as I wish I was. Things are getting weirder every day here. And by here, I mean a small remote island right in the middle of the world’s largest ocean. The entirety of this place is smaller than the area code I grew up in. When something runs out at the grocery store, there’s only so many other stores you can check before you run out of island to drive around. And all the other grocery stores are out of whatever you’re looking for, too.

Things are weird. And they’re only going to get weirder. Schools are being closed. Hell, everything’s being closed. I took my son to get a haircut this weekend, likely the last public setting we’ll go to for a while, and he was the only kid in the place that’s usually standing room only. We were done before our appointment was even scheduled to begin. They ended up cutting his hair shorter than normal. I couldn’t understand why at the time, but I think I’m starting to.

There’s not really a point I’m getting at here. I think all I’m trying to say is, I’m with you. Each and every one of you who is adjusting to this new now that we find ourselves in, I’m right there with you. Not physically, of course, because of that whole stuck on an island thousands of miles away from the rest of civilization thing. But we’re all clawing our way through this worst timeline together.

So it’s on us to make the best of it. Get creative. Grab a board game and play with the people you may be stuck indoors with. Do a video chat with other people also stuck indoors. Figure out how to play a board game over video chat. I think it would work with Battleship. Less so with poker, but let me know if you figure out how to make it work. Just keep your wits about you, and be kind when the opportunity presents itself. Because it will, and with increasing frequency as this continues. We’re only just now entering the gaping mouth of the tunnel ahead, but that daylight is going to feel sweet on our faces when we reach the other side.