What is so great about simple living? That is a rhetorical question. Yep. When I am not sailing past shoppers in the Commissary (that is the military’s idea of a supermarket) giggling at buggies which are piled high with prepackaged foods, laundry detergent, yogurt sticks, dog treats, bread, and soda – I am enjoying the look on people’s faces when they discover that I make everything in their cart, cupboard, or pantry in my little kitchen. That is a swinging-on-the-gate feeling if ever there was one. Hey, don’t judge me. I’m just easily entertained. I still get a kick out of scrubbing my baseboards with an old toothbrush, a pail of water, and a bar of homemade soap.
Simplifying life is a reward in itself. In today’s world, it is easy to get discouraged because of all of the bad (violence, oppression, chemical warfare – in our supermarkets as well as on a global level – healthcare or the lack thereof, waste, disease, and more). While I am certainly not in denial about the state of things, I choose to focus my attention on making a difference in my own home, community, and life. As Mohandas Ghandi so eloquently put it, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – but in being able to remake ourselves.”
Here’s a simple living joy that I personally love: Sourdough Starter a.k.a The Mother Sponge. This little bit of genius – bowing to the breadmakers of yesteryear – can be kept indefinitely at room temperature if fed a simple diet of flour and water. A sourdough starter is not only a handy way to produce fabulous breads but a great way to stop paying ever-rising prices for yeast and/or bread at the grocery store.
Here’s my method (possibly not the best method but it works for me):
2 cups unbleached, unbromated flour
2 cups warm water (I use the water that I’ve boiled potatoes in to provide additional starch)
Add water to the flour in a bowl. Blend the ingredients and pour into a plastic gallon-size zip-loc bag.
You should keep the starter in a warm place; 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal because it allows the yeast already present in the flour (and in the air) to grow rapidly. I keep mine on top of the microwave. Feed the starter by using a cup of it (or throwing it away – which is wasteful so just make pancakes with it, ok?) and then adding a half-cup of flour and a half-cup of water. Do this every day. Within three or four days (it can take longer, a week or more, and it can also happen very quickly) you should see lots of bubbles and a pleasant beery smell. The starter will begin to puff up, too. This is all very good. Once a froth develops: you have made a sourdough starter. Now you can reduce your daily feedings to just once a week. This starter can be passed down through your family.
Did that sound ridiculously easy? Well, it should. People who thought you could fall over the edge of the world made this stuff all the time.
Any bread recipe (that does not call for quick-rise yeast) can be altered to use a sourdough starter — just substitute the yeast/water/sugar mixture with a cup of sourdough starter. Never made bread in your life? Terrified of trying it? Click here and see the tutorial. Email me if you have questions.
Oh yes, one more thing: the hooch. I personally think that is the coolest word in cooking. The hooch is a dark liquid that will form on the top of your starter. Do not panic. Just pour it off. And say “hooch” a couple more times. Have a good chuckle and hum the theme song to The Dukes of Hazzard.
Check out all the good sourdough stuff at GRIT here.
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