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Sourdough Yoga

There’s Yoga…

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And, then there’s Sourdough Yoga.

My kids’ high school participates in a program where Australian high school students spend a couple of weeks with a family here.  We participated a couple of years ago.  Nicholas joined us and we bonded with him immediately.  I also bonded with his father from many thousands of miles away.  My God, he has a brick oven in his backyard.  He has pizza parties for twenty.  I’m jealous.  Envious.

Ever since, Ian and I have maintained an email correspondence.  Trading pictures of pizza and our tales of our existence.  Rumor has it he and the family will be headed out this way in a few months.  I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime, we have emails.  Last weekend, he sent me an email bemoaning the fact that his sourdough starter, which he had named Eric (!!), had died from neglect.  So, he started another one — Eric II — and baked a loaf.

Ian's sourdough

Authentic Australian sourdough.

Well, the gauntlet had been thrown.  My sourdough has been sitting in the refrigerator, neglected as well for many months.

sourdough starter

For those uninitiated in the ways of the sourdough.  Once you get your starter going, you’re supposed to feed it regularly.  This means removing a cup of the starter and adding a cup of flour and water.  Sourdough is something that needs frequent love and attention.  And, if you’re going to give it all of that love and attention, you might as well bake sourdough regularly.  The problem for me is twofold.  First, sourdough is more time consuming than making regular bread.  See the aforementioned regular feeding.  Also, once it’s time to bake, you’re looking at a two day process.  As a result, easy to make french bread is, well, easier to make.

The second problem is that two members of the Midget family don’t like sourdough.  As a result, french bread is, well, easier to make.  And enjoy for the whole family.  Particularly, when you slather it in melted butter while it’s rising.  Slather it in melted butter again just before you back it.  Slather it in melted butter after you bake it.  And sprinkle sea salt or kosher salt on top.

In that picture above, it’s hard to see, but there is an inch or two of black water on top.  A neglected sourdough starter separates and continues fermenting.  The black water is foul smelling and disgusting.  But as long as there isn’t any mold on the jar, I’m good to go.  I hope. With Ian throwing the challenge down, I began to work with my un-named sourdough starter.

Fed it Thursday night.  Fed it Friday morning.  Fed it Friday night and began my week long sourdough yoga.  I pulled a cup out of the starter Friday night and combined it with another cup of water and flour.  Set that to the side.  Saturday morning, I added some more water and flour and formed some dough for your basic sourdough.  Normally, because of time issues, I add some regular yeast to help speed up the rise.  But, I knew this weekend could be a lazy one.  We had some plans, but they were spaced out so I could do this thing without additional help.  No added yeast.

The dough sat in its bowl until about 2:30 in the afternoon.  I formed the loaves and put them in bread loaf pans.  One of the things I’ve discovered is that sourdough and other low yeast breads, when they rise, they tend to “rise” to the sides — meaning the bread comes out pretty flat.  Unless you put them in something that will help shape them properly.  Hence the loaf pans.  The dough sat in those pans until almost 8:30 when I put them in the oven.  Here you go.  Two loaves of sourdough.

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But, I wasn’t done.  There’s still Sunday, right?  I fed the starter again last night.  Pulled a couple of cups out of it and added some flour and water and set it aside.  This morning, I turned that it into more dough.  And while it began to rise, I sliced up some of one of last night’s loaves and made french toast.  And topped it with some strawberry jam my youngest made a few weeks ago.

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By the way, my youngest leaves tomorrow for four weeks in Israel.  He’s the other member of my family who likes sourdough.  Half a loaf is tucked into his carry-on for nibbling on the plane.

Because sourdough has no added yeast — In case you want to know the science of sourdough, go here — it takes hours for it to rise.  When I make French bread with regular yeast, the rise is only about 45 minutes.  Sourdough takes hours.  Then you form it and it takes hours more.  That slow rise gives sourdough it’s distinctive bit holes, but also can make it denser and heavier than normal yeast breads.

So, there’s a lot of time in there to do other things.  While today’s loaves are doing their thing…

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I had to have lunch.  Right?  If it’s Sourdough weekend, that must mean Sourdough Grilled Cheese.  Provolone and Jack cheese.  Two slices of each.

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I tried something different with this sandwich.  I grilled both sides of the bread so it was crunchy on the outside and the inside.  I may do that more often.

The final two events of Sourdough weekend, of my sourdough yoga, are the two most important.   First, three of the rounds pictured above turned into roasted garlic asiago sourdough.  If we had smell-a-vision on our computers, I’d share the smell with you.  This bread, baking in the oven, is the absolute best food aroma there is.  (And, yes, that picture is upside down.)

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The final event was, of course, pizza with sourdough crust.

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Thank you, Ian, for motivating me to get the starter out and gorge myself on all things sourdough.  Yes, the starter is safely back in the fridge.  Where it will remain for a few months before I pull it back out again.  Next time, I won’t go quite so crazy.  At the moment, I think I need to bicycle non-stop for the next three days to burn off all these carbs.

Why “Sourdough Yoga”?  Because there are things that relax me, where I find comfort, and some semblance of peace.  Cooking is one of them.  Baking.  Making pizza.  Pulling the starter out of the fridge this weekend and refamiliarizing myself with it living and breathing sourdough for a couple of days.  Finding new ways to use it.  That’s yoga to me.

A Moment

Without a picture.

I went for my Saturday morning bike ride.  22.5 miles.  About five miles into it, along a lonely two-lane country road, I came upon an older gentlemen peddling along.  As I passed, I wished him a good morning.  He responded in kind and added, “I could do that thirty years ago,” in reference to my pace compared to his.

I yelled over my shoulder, “It’s not so easy for me now.”   I peddled on for a few more seconds and then slowed down.  As he caught up to me, I commended him, “It’s great that you’re out here.”

His reply, “Not bad for 75.”

We exchanged a few more words and he asked me where I was headed.  “Just a loop.  About 20 miles.”

“I’m going 12,” he commented.

We wished each other well and that we should ride safe.  I peddled on and reflected on why I ride.

It’s my dad’s fault.  And my brother’s.

As far back as I can remember, my dad rode his bike.  Which means he started somewhere in the late ’60’s.  To work when weather permitted, along the bike trail and in the foothills on weekends.  He rode centuries and took Bicycle Adventures throughout the Northwest.  He took solo bicycling trips to the Southwest.  For something close to 40 years, my dad bicycled.  Age and physical ailments finally stopped him a few years ago.  But, he set an example.

My brother was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes when he was eighteen.  From that point forward he became a physical fitness nut.  He’ll turn 54 this summer.  I’m willing to put him up against any other 54-year-old diabetic.  I’m pretty certain there isn’t another one as fit and healthy as my brother.  Actually, I’m willing to put him up against just about any other 54-year-old, diabetic or not.  Working out, bicycling, hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing.  He works to exercise.  He set an example, as well.

I see these two men in my family and recognize the need for health and fitness.  My father, at an age when most people are sitting in a recliner watching television and griping about the weather, was getting off his butt and exercising as long and as far as his body would take him.  Just like the man on the country road this morning.  My brother, faced with an illness that would cut his life short if he didn’t take care of himself, chose to challenge it and beat it.

I’ve struggled with making the commitment they both have.  For years, I hated running and didn’t even try it.  I went back and forth with bicycling.  Then, a few years ago, I got seriously into running.  For the first time in about twenty years, I was exercising regularly, running hundreds of miles a year for several years in a row.  Completing four half marathons and being in better physical shape than I had been in years.  Then I tried to play soccer.  I can’t run anymore.

It’s back to the bicycle.  It’s something I must do.  I have to do.  I have no choice.  I want to be like my dad, still bicycling into his 70’s.  I want to be that man on the country road … happy to be on his bike on a cool Saturday morning, going 12 miles, even if he couldn’t do what he did 30 years ago.  I don’t want to be the old guy griping about the weather and needing help to get out of a chair.

There’s another reason.  It’s not just about physical health and physical fitness.  It’s about mental health.  My long-lost twin sister, Olivia, separated not just at birth but by twenty years in age, is a huge fan of yoga.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve engaged in a dialogue about what yoga really could be.  It’s not just the physical practice of yoga itself.  What it really can be is those times when you are doing for yourself.  Where you want to be doing the thing you want to be.  That thing where you pull inside and be.  Where you are most at peace.  Where you are content.  (Hopefully, I got that right, sister o’ mine.)

Bicycling is that for me as well.  It is my yoga.

An interesting happened as I pulled away from the gentleman this morning.  This song came on my IPhone.  Yes, I have no doubt the songwriter had a different meaning, but as I peddled on and thought about these things, I thought it was perfect.

 

 

The Things not on my Bucket List

This weekend was a time of first — and the type of  first not on my bucket list.  These things were small steps in a direction I can’t really describe, but I’ll try.

A dozen years ago, I knew virtually nothing about soccer.  In the years since, I haven’t spent a year without coaching one or (in most years) both of my sons in soccer.  Always an assistant, never in charge, because of my lack of knowledge.  But, all of those years have added up and I think I know a lot about the game now.  And, this year is the first since my oldest first ran out on the field to play bunch ball that I am no longer a coach.

Let me say it here now … HALLELUJAH!!!

Let me also be very clear.  There is probably nothing that makes me happier as a parent than to see my boys playing the sports they love and doing well at it. (well, except for my youngest’s hugs — that still are offered frequently, even at the age of 14)  But, coaching?  I don’t need it anymore.  I’m more than happy to be a spectator, taking pictures, and cheering them on without obligation to the other kids on the team, their parents, and well, pretty much everything else.  I’m not responsible any more!!! Except for my own enjoyment of watching my kids play and have fun doing it.
So, what am I doing now?  What did I do for the first time this week?  Referee soccer games … for real, cash money.  I referee’d two U9 games (for the uninitiated, that means 8-year-olds) yesterday.  It’s somewhat nervewracking, but, at the same time, an interesting and different way to experience the game.  The best thing about that age is how much fun the kids are having and how few issues they are — parents and coaches relatively under control and kids who are just so cute while they’re playing.  The goalie who held up her hand and smiled every time she made a save.  The little girl who got knocked down and was crying incredible tears, but refused to come out of the game.  The neverending effort and drive to play this game they don’t quite understand yet.

I referee’d soccer for the first time.  I hope there are many more such games in the future … even if there are times when it’s not quite as enjoyable.
And, today, I played bocce ball.  What an incredible, almost zen-like experience.  I plan on joining the East Sac Bocce Ball Club so I can get access to the bocce ball courts and practice.  I can see myself playing on my own, or with a friend, and just enjoying the peacefulness of the sport.

Just thought of another new thing — a couple of weeks ago — yoga.  Yoga and bocce ball have things in common.  There’s this calmness to them that, I think, is critical to my moving forward.

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