"that’s quite pungent…. it *stings* the nostrils"

My latest foodie obsession – a subset of my quest to to become a competent bread-baker – is mastering sourdough. Talk about weird. Yesterday on target I had a rye starter mix is bubbling and frothing away. I’d moved it kind of everywhere in the house to find a good spot (who has a 80 degree place in their house 24 hours a day?). Problem is, the starter was giving off quite an odor right away, one curiously reminiscent of some of the more filthy underbelly aspects of a wood pulping operation (memories of 2 AM shift walks… [ shudder! ]). Had my starter gone bad? How could I tell if it did? What next? Why am I trusting the internet for all this information?

So very early on in my sourdough-making experiment the process turned from exact recipe following (my preferred method) to a half-assed scientist’s experiment. Using a combination of this know-it-all’s elaborate recipe, the sourdough starter available to me at the local health food store, salt, yeast, and flours (three in total) I made a loaf. The whole family kept tabs on it all day – the kids checking each rise and the baking thereof – and we waited until Ralph got home to try it.

Success! It was a tasty bread. The loaf, once cooled (it was quite pretty) was promptly divided and ravaged in a total of four different households (a tiny heel remains in my breadbox). As for me, although I had a piece, the smell of the starter lingered in my olfactory memory and it was basically a mental taint.

Also baked: chocolate rye coffee cake, pumpernickel rolls. Today: homemade marshmallows.

so where are you going to i don’t mind / if i live too long i’m afraid i’ll die

Insomnia. Again. No external culprits: no late-night caffeine, no alcohol. Exercise earlier in the day. No illness. Just nerves. Alone, abandoned, sad. Listening to my family sleeping. At least the cats are outside cold (yes, I’m about to let them in). At night I tell myself that in the morning I’ll feel better. It doesn’t help much but, of course, eventually I do sleep. If I was prone to ulcers I’d have developed one.

My days are good. I have been so busy lately – in a good way. I’ve been working really hard at helping my daughter’s class in their learning and enjoyment of school. Her teacher is awesome in that she will help me integrate a food or food activity into the lessons they do during the week. Ever since we started dong this stuff my little bird-brain gears spin away, bordering on the way-too-involved. Today was pumpkin pie day, pumpkin pie being the food the kids voted on earlier in the week (I’m sad they didn’t vote for the soup, which would have been more fun to make!). Two-dozen individual pies and one large one for the teachers. The kids sat and unfolded a napkin and we listened to a song about manners while they all ate. It was a nice scene.

Next week I’m even worse. I am currently cooking recipes and planning a little school unit on bread-baking which includes book holds at the library, a Sesame Street video podcast, and a book the kids and I worked on today.

I have been putting together my zine (website pending) which I must finish before I allow myself to sew again (post-Halloween resolution). I am on the preschool board and run little errands for that which aren’t rocket science but nevertheless take up a bit of time. Ralph and I have had two meetings each this week (I missed one), being more active in the film / theatre community here. And just trying to keep on top of housework and stay happy with the children and take Sophie to her swim lessons and enjoy peaceful evenings at home. We’re hitting it dead-on this week, for a change. No strain, just fun.

Here’s the thing: anytime someone tells you they’re busy it’s easy to not care, to tune out what they’re doing. But the point is I decided these things were important. I decided I cared about them, I committed to doing them. It’s different than a paid job where someone gives you a formal accolade or a formal paycheck and says, “Yes, that’s what you should be doing.” It’s a good groove though; I’ll admit. Today after baking pumpernickel bread my children opted out of playing together to come back in the kitchen and help me make two-dozen rolls (homemade burgers tonight for my dad’s dinner). One nice thing about having an at-home parent is your children learn so very much from you. It is truly an honor and inspiration to have them as pupils, too.

The hour grows only later and my body does not feel ready for sleep. Nevertheless I shall try.