Learning the Forgotten Ways

Fermenting carrots and ginger, and sourdough starter …

What seems like a long time ago now, when I was a single mother of two, I had mastered a small repertoire of recipes and baking was not included. I was the stovetop queen of East Harlem. So after I moved to California and then got married (and quickly had two more kids,) I was proud of myself when I started baking muffins and other treats. I felt pretty smart when I also started canning the vegetables and fruits that my husband grew in abundance in our little backyard. Even so, when we moved here to Greenville almost nine years ago, I was still a virgin bread baker. I had never used yeast for anything. But I was no virgin to eating bread, and have always preferred it fresh.

I started off with a bread machine that I have since gotten rid of after I realized that most good bread rises twice, and you have to flirt with it for a few minutes in between rises to get the best out of it. For a little while I thought I had arrived after turning out some beautifully braided challah loaves, Belgian waffles and seasonal cinnamon rolls. I also admired the rows of pickled peppers, cucumbers, and cabbage on my pantry shelves. But after awhile I wasn’t satisfied. It was all foreplay, the yeast in my baking goods, the vinegar in my canned goods, the carbonation in my soda.

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