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The Year of Sourdough

Can I be honest? Last year was not my favorite. I'm not one to believe that January 1 is some magical day where everything resets, but there is something really beautiful about new beginnings. About being able to leave a hard year in the past.

A week ago, on the first day of 2023, I pulled a long-neglected jar of sourdough starter out of the fridge. If you've ever dealt with sourdough, you know that old starter is somewhat frightening. It develops a layer of "hooch" on the top, a dark liquid that floats on top of the thickened starter. It smells strong, but not unpleasant. I dipped my bread dough whisk into the jar, and stirred the gluey, gray mixture. I have faith that it isn't ruined. That after a few days of patient feeding, it will come back to life. Bubbly and resembling an actual ingredient, not some weird gloopy mess.

The first loaf I made wasn't perfect. My technique was a little clumsy, and my impatience led to an inch of doughy bread at the bottom of each piece. But enough salted butter and you could barely notice.

Tonight, I started my second batch. This time the starter woke up much quicker. It remembered its job. I tried a new recipe tonight that requires me to gently fold the dough in on itself every 30 minutes. The first time, my hand was covered in dough, sticky and messy. But each subsequent fold it becomes firmer. It begins to feel right, somehow.

After the last fold, I will cover the dough for the night. While I sleep, it will rise. I hope. Because bread requires a measure of hope. Faith in the starter that just a few weeks ago looked like a forgotten science experiment in my refrigerator.

In the morning, I will fold and divide and let it rise again. And finally, hours and hours after I started this process I will pull out a fresh loaf of sourdough bread. Mike will toast me pieces and bring them with my morning coffee. I will eat rushed sandwiches on it in-between meetings. I will spread peanut butter on it and eat it as an open-faced snack while I prepare dinner.

Tonight, as I stirred and folded and waited, I began to think about how this could be the year of sourdough. A year of trusting the process, even when it seems messy and broken. A year of slowing down, knowing that some things can only be accomplished through time and patience.

Perhaps most importantly, may 2023 be a year of enjoying the simple things. Of tangy sourdough starter. A dish of softened butter. A slice of perfectly toasted bread alongside a warm cup of coffee.

What is your 2023 a year of?

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