Ted’s spent the last year or so returning to the old ways of food preparation, experimenting with everything from making homemade sausages, beef jerky, and old style North Carolina barbecue, to curing ham, making farmhouse cheddar cheese, and homemade butter. It’s been a blast watching him, and it’s been an even bigger treat sampling his wares.
Then came the sourdough experiment. While I’ve had a lot of experience making various breads and pizza crusts, Ted’s experience has been slightly less comprehensive…Ok, total newbie. Even with my experience, I’ve never had the gumption to try a sourdough. I know they’re more complicated than regular yeast breads and require a lot of patience, not a trait I possess in spades. Nevertheless, Ted charged on. And I was excited for him. He was going to be using a sourdough starter from the Yukon Gold Rush, over 100 years ago. That meant our bread would have the DNA of a fascinating time in history. How cool is that?
Five days in and several pounds of flour later, the first attempt failed. He called on me to help figure out what went wrong. I was frustrated for him. I hated that the sourdough starter had not yielded piping hot, puffy slices of slightly sour, delicious bread to all his hard work. He, however, was ready to admit that it was more trouble than it was worth and move on to the next challenge.
In my self-righteous anger, I said to the sourdough starter, “Nobody puts baby in the corner,” and took over training that starter into submission. Now you have to understand we were following directions in a book about making sourdough bread, and they were extremely complicated, with varying the temperatures in tiny increments at certain times to activate the culture, to proofing the culture also at varying temps, to proofing the dough, and then the final proofing of the loaf before baking.
Those directions were the most complicated and convoluted recipe steps I’d ever seen. In the end, my attempt yielded better results than the first, but with one problem, the loaves didn’t brown in the oven. I was furious with the results. I said to myself, “You know, back in the days of the gold rush they didn’t have proofing boxes and thermometers to make their sourdough bread.” THEY WERE IN THE WILDERNESS, for crying out loud. These women, what few there were, and men weren’t hopping onto the pony express and ordering all these contraptions to make sourdough. THERE WAS GOLD TO BE FOUND! Nor were they following the ridiculous recipe I had before me.
So, I hopped onto the internet, because it’s modern times and I can, and researched. And I made an important discovery. The directions I found there weren’t nearly as complicated.
What they were honest about, however, is that one’s first few attempts at sourdough bread will fail. After all, making sourdough bread is about as difficult as “finding gold in them thar hills.” But the recipes I found on the web were encouraging, straight forward, and as simple to follow as sourdough recipes can be.
Here’s the thing I learned from this whole process though–I’ve discovered there are a great many people who like to make things appear as complicated and convoluted as possible. I don’t know why they do this. Sometimes it seems to be about power, lording it over others that they know more. Other times it seems like the opposite extreme of being so insecure that they have to try and prove something. And still other times, there are just some people who couldn’t figure their way out of a paper bag if they had to. Of course those would be very small people…
Whatever the reason, these are people who are time wasters. They will also rob you of joy, and will often try to make you fail or feel like a failure. The key is to identify these people quickly and move away from their sphere of influence before these things happen.
Finally, I try to live by this principle so as not to become one of those times-wasters myself: KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. When I do this, I’m happier and everyone around me is happier. So greet each other with a KISS, it’s the best way to go through life with less stress. Give love, live loved and have a great week.