May 20, 2015 by Dadinator
Tonight before going to bed I put together a concoction. It’s one part Gerald (more on that later), two parts flour and two parts water. I’m going to bake tomorrow, but I can’t just “whip it up” because I’m doing sourdough. It’s an obsession, something that I stumbled upon because of this bastard (I have a huge man-crush on Paul West, but I know he can never be mine).
Gerald is my sourdough starter. He’s about 3 months old now, I feed him every day. Except when I forget. Half a cup of water and half a cup of rye flour is all it takes to keep the many yeast spores in him alive, breeding and producing more yeast spores. I make sure I use him a few times a week so I don’t have to throw any of him out (the idea of wasting food like that kind of offends me). I try to bake bread twice a week, it depends on work and other commitments, but I always manage at least one bake. I’m not much of a fiddler yet, but I’ve got a solid plain loaf going. I add fruit occasionally, my kids love fruit toast. Again it’s nothing too elaborate, but it works. In fact works well. In fact it’s the best bread I have ever tasted. It’s the extra self-satisfaction it is seasoned with that makes all the difference.
But it takes time and forethought to make it. It cannot be put in a microwave, it cannot be bought from a 7/11 two blocks away (I used to live two blocks away from a 7/11 in my uni days) whenever I want. It’s not that kind of food. It’s not that kind of life any more. It takes a little effort each day, and it takes hours to mature and rise as you make it.
And that’s okay, I don’t need bread now. I’m putting it together now, I’ll bake it tomorrow after work and we’ll have bread in 2 days time.
I make beer. I like beer, and I enjoy making it. Again it’s seasoned with the sweet sweet taste of smugness, so it is delicious. I have a stock of it under the house. I want to brew up a stout soon, as winter comes, but if I want stout I need to get it organised now to be ready for July/August when it’s really cold. Thinking in May about the beer we’ll drink in August is quite a change.
We recently got some fertilised chicken eggs. One of our chickens went broody recently (means they basically have a strong instinct to sit in a nest and wait for eggs to hatch – they do this even if there are no eggs). So we bought 8 eggs and she’s sitting on them happily now. We’re making plans and preparations for up to 8 new chicks to hatch in 2 weeks time; our future egg suppliers. We won’t see eggs from any hypothetical chickens until November, at the earliest. We’re planning ahead for them though making sure there’s room and warmth for the little fuzzlets we’ll have running around.
Our fruit trees are nearly a year in the dirt at our place. We got them and planted them out last year, almost all of them have survived (cherries not so much), so that’s great. We won’t see fruit for another 3-4 years yet, but we’re glad we started down the road. It’s a long-term commitment, but if we can get it right we’ll reap the rewards.
For some reason staring at Gerald just made me contemplate all that. Living the slow life, letting things take their time and enjoying the process as much as the product. We moved here from the city to do just that, and while it often feels like we’ve done nothing, we are getting there. Step by tiny step.
So why bother? What’s the point of waiting 18 hours for sourdough to rise? What’s the point of waiting 2 months for beer to ferment? Why plant fruit trees now that won’t fruit for at least 3 years?
It’s not because it tastes better. It’s not because it is intrinsically better than the stuff you buy. It’s not particularly cheaper. Well the beer is, A LOT cheaper, but that’s only part of the equation. It’s better for you, generally, but again not by an enormous measure. The smug factor makes it worth trying, but doesn’t really make it worth sticking with.
We moved here so we could understand more about what it is to live; to eat, to grow and to make. Gerald helps us do that. He reminds us that the air is full of native yeast waiting to be harvested into our bread, if we only take the time. He reminds us that the fruit we grow in our soil will taste like no other fruit on earth because every square centimetre of dirt on this rock of ours is slightly different. He reminds us that we’ll one day bury the chickens that lay our eggs. And, while I can’t articulate it, there’s something in all that which is important to us.
It’s important our kids know about it too. That fruit comes from trees, eggs from chickens, bread from the oven. All that kumbaiah crap.
And if anyone out there tells you that it’s “easy”, they’re probably trying to sell you a book. It isn’t, it’s haphazard, it’s full of mistakes and it’s a lot of work. And you never know if you’ll ‘get there’ or even what ‘there’ is. But, if it’s important to you for long enough, you push on and one day you wake up with bacon you’ve cured, bread you’ve baked and eggs your chickens have laid, and dammit, those smug hippies are right. It’s the best breakfast you’ve ever tasted.
All I need now is a goat….