Sep 13, 2020


You probably won't believe me when I say this, but one of the things I had on the docket for 2020* was to finally learn how to make sourdough bread. It was something I had been wanting to do for a long time. 

Years ago on a trip to Portland, I picked up a copy of Tartine at Powell's with that same goal in mind (Tartine has long been a favorite of mine from my San Francisco days). I thought if I got the book, I could teach myself. As much as I love reading through it, it's pretty overwhelming for a beginner who doesn't have any bread-making experience. I learn better as I'm doing, but with something as precise as bread-making, it's helpful to have someone there to show you the ropes as you go. 

Last year, I tried to make it to one of Aran Goyoaga's workshops for bread, but kept missing the boat (Aran now has a gluten free cookbook out that's gorgeous). Finally, at the end of February I got to go to a workshop hosted by the fabulous Julie Ann Marr, right here in Vancouver, and she taught me everything I needed to know to start making my own bread at home. Little did I know, just a couple of weeks after the workshop, I'd be in lockdown at the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like a lot of others, making bread somehow helped me cope with the new reality that was gradually sinking in as 2020 began wreaking its havoc. Doing something that took time and required a methodical approach was comforting. Just follow the rules, and you'll end up with a gorgeous loaf of your own. So satisfying. In good times and bad, my kitchen is one of my favorite places to be, so bread making was no exception. 

A few weeks into lockdown, like many others, I started doing things I'd normally do virtually. I started Tuesday and Thursday morning workouts with a friend on Zoom, joined birthday parties on Zoom, wine nights on Zoom, yoga on Zoom... Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. 

When one of my friends who I have a history of cooking and exploring food with got wind that I'd taken a sourdough workshop, she asked if I'd teach her over Zoom. So I packed some of my starter up and drove it to her house and left it on her front porch. Bright and early the next morning, we jumped on a call to feed our starters together and get the show on the road. Over the course of the day, and intermittent Zoom calls, I taught my friend how to make her first loaf of sourdough bread remotely. She was hooked, and started to make more loaves, folding in fun ingredients like olives, walnuts, rosemary, garlic, and even cheese.

As thanks for the bread-making lesson, she made this olive loaf for me - one of her first few, and it turned out beautifully. She also gave me some ginger kombucha she had brewed, which was delicious.

Like all of us, I could come up with a litany of reasons why this has been a terrible year, but for right now, I'm trying to focus on the positives. I'm glad that 2020 is the year my sourdough dreams finally became a reality. I've not only learned to make sourdough bread, but all kinds of other awesome things with my starter, like pancakes, crackers, tortillas and pizza dough (I really like this recipe from Flourist). And I'm more thankful now than ever for friends to share bread and kombucha with, even remotely.

*in the before times, when your instagram feed wasn't yet chock full of homemade sourdough loaves.

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