Like many, during quarantine I have engaged in many tasks that I have never before. For example, I started baking sourdough bread using a sourdough starter. My friend, a well seasoned bread baker himself, offered me some of his sourdough starter discard so that I could start a starter of my own. Once this starter was in my hands, I started taking care of it and baking my own bread.
The concept of a sourdough starter is very interesting. It is essentially a fermented dough that contains natural yeast. Instead of using packets of active dry yeast, one can use sourdough starter to create breads with natural yeast. Sometimes, if I think too much about it, I freak myself out knowing that the contents of the jar is alive. It requires monitoring to make sure that it is well-fed, fed at the right times, and well-taken care of.
When you feed the sourdough starter, you take a portion of the starter, some flour, and some water and combine it together. Then you leave it to grow! What this process entails, however, is that the leftover portion of the sourdough starter is discarded (or given away to a friend). The reasoning behind this discarding process is because the yeast grows after feeding and would require more flour and water for feeding the next time around if you don’t discard a portion of it. In order to keep the starter manageable, it is necessary to discard a portion of the starter.
The process of feeding a sourdough starter, though it is simple, has presented me with different mental challenges. “It’s a perfectly good starter! Why would I discard it!” I understood the science and the reasoning behind why I should discard a portion of my starter, but still a part of me inside felt guilty for wasting something and tossing it out.
This directly connects to the household in which I was raised and the values that were instilled in me. Growing up in a low-income immigrant household, I was taught to not be wasteful and to use anything I could to its fullest capacity. Whether it is hoarding plastic bags or rinsing out shampoo/soap bottles to utilize all of the soap, there were many “life hacks” that my family utilized that are engrained in me. I find myself not being able to let go and even as an adult, I find myself having tendencies of hoarding and not wanting to dispose things that should be let go.
The process of feeding a sourdough starter has taught me the art of letting go and parting with something that I am emotionally invested in. Regardless of my guilty feelings and aversion towards discarding something that could be useful, I still discard a portion of my sourdough starter because I know it has to be done. Other times, I would utilize the discard to create some bread or other dough product. The practice of discarding sourdough starter has been a good experience for me to challenge the messages that have been engrained in me and to practice the art of letting go and departing with things. By doing this, I can have a healthy sourdough starter that can create breads like this!