Over the weekend, I gobbled up Robin Sloan’s new novel, Sourdough. The narrator is a woman who creates program code for robot arms. She orders soup and sandwiches daily from a restaurant with no address, and when the owners, who come from an exotic and fictional homeland, have to leave the United States due to expired visas, they give her an unusual gift – their very special sourdough starter.
Although our narrator, Lois Clary, has zero baking or cooking experience, she does the only reasonable thing. She learns to bake bread. Adventures ensue, and we have a novel – a charming and delightful novel.
The book brings to mind my own experience capturing a sourdough starter (or monster as I called it), a number of years ago. It made the tastiest bread. I kept it in a jar on top of the fridge and I would feed it every day or two. For the year or so I kept the monster going, I made quite a bit of bread. All those folks out there avoiding gluten would be horrified, I’m sure.
One day, something changed and my normally mild-mannered monster went rogue. It expanded up and out the holes in the lid of the jar, across the top of the fridge, down the side and halfway across the kitchen floor, when I walked in and destroyed it before it ate the house.
I suppose the novel is having some fun at the expense of foody-nerds in the SF area of California. Lois gets involved with an experimental market and becomes immersed in a delightfully obsessive food sub-culture. The book is a page-turner, and it’s funny and thoroughly enjoyable to read.
I suspect it’s impossible to read this book without wanting to first eat some seriously good bread, then hunker down and bake your own. I’m thinking that when we return from Vietnam in January, I might just capture a new monster and work on making a really great loaf.