Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bread, Culture and Starters

I remember what life was like out here, before Dad hooked up the internet.  American Author Henry Thoreau wrote of the "quiet desparation" in the mass of men, and  that about sums it up. No point ranting and raving about the pressures, because there's no one to listen.  We've all done our fair share of running to the back paddocks for a moonlit sob or a yell, but those essential  outbursts have been, thankfully, rare.

I remember the early days of computers here. At first, according to farming tradition, we bought second hand.  Like horses that bailed up at crucial moments, or  tractors that clapped out at harvest, those computers set us up and let us down.  I remember Dad, under his desk like a mechanic under a chassis, networking his outmoded hard drives to the newer ones.  Never buy new, never throw anything away.

We buy new these days. Through access to all the information flying around the broader world our little world has opened up, and our minds have opened up too.  Which leads me to the gut. Many say that's a kind of brain too.  We've had a rocky relationship with bread over the past few years, and it's taken a while to figure out just where the problem lies.  Current thinking is that commercial quick rise yeasts lead to shocking stomach acidity, when a basic PH is the most desirable. Both Mum and Dad researched the case, via the web.  I just pined and whined for the Sydney sour doughs in Bondi corner stores and the rye loaves from Frank's bakery in Glenhuntly Road in Elsternwick.

About a month ago, Mum ordered sour dough starter cultures on-line and she set up a mini-lab inside the great, black, carved, almost hideous german press in her sitting room.  Open the top door on the right and you are faced with seething grey goo and and an interrogation strength light bulb. The product is pretty gothic too - hard, strong-flavoured, dark loaves best approached slowly with a very sharp knife. Sometimes they come with surprises - I'm having trouble finding words for the way I enjoyed the fig and walnut combination.  Well. Shall we say thinly shaved, lightly toasted, heavily buttered, laid gently on the willow pattern and sluiced with Russian Caravan tea?

Just like a bought one. (Only better).


  1. fabulous!
    love mum's sourdough safety cabinet....
    does she wear a white coat?
    is she on an asio list for growing dangerous substances?

  2. mum - dangerous substances and unlicensed nursing
    dad - farming practice revolutionary
    brother - chemically engineering fallen native trees
    sister - propoganda from within BBC ranks
    Joe - playing cards against the devil and winning
    me - ahh. now that would be telling