Whassup??? Haven’t talked to you guys since March. What’ve you been doing? Been to the theatre? New restaurants? Playing much bridge or poker? Your book group getting together? You been to the new bagel place on Chicago Avenue? Any dinner parties or cookouts?
No? Same here. Like most of you, we’ve been quarantining. Sheltering in place. Social distancing. Keeping ourselves at least 6 feet from anyone not named Larry or Carole Mitchener.
And – for the record – Larry and Carole Mitchener are both still alive. For now. Although Carole has threatened to kill my sourdough starter.
As you know, sheltering in place is no fun. Whether you live in a mansion or a studio, you’re stuck within that space. It’s your universe. So we began devising ways to turn our condo into a playground.
We tried board games. But how much Monopoly and Scrabble can two people play?
We could read more. After all, we have lots of books (I’m an English major) and many back issues of The New Yorker (I’m an English major). But if we read all day, our eyes would burn, our heads would explode, and we would become overbearingly literate.
Take walks when the weather’s nice? That’s what we should do; and it’s what Carole actually does. But her elderly husband has these elderly legs that weren’t made for walkin’.
We went through many possibilities, until we accidentally stumbled on two activities that became integral parts of our quarantined lives. One of them was making sourdough bread from scratch.
Carole loves sourdough bread, and eagerly encouraged me. It was something I decided to do for her.
When I was single 34+ years ago, I baked bread. A single guy who made his own bread (and had a charming daughter) was quite a draw for single women. But the bread I made back then was regular loaf bread, using dry yeast. Sourdough’s different.
I didn’t know how different. Sourdough is not just a recipe; it’s a lifestyle commitment. It takes time, patience, flour, water, kitchen space, self-confidence, mixing bowls, dish towels, more time, more flour, colanders, more counter space, a big heavy pot, a 500-degree oven. And nothing else on your schedule for a week.
It’s a science project you can eat when you’re done.
To make sourdough bread or pizza dough or any other sourdough concoction, you start by making sourdough starter. Sourdough starter is made from flour and water. If you do it right and do it long enough, you create your own living, breathing yeast.
A little bit of the starter is then mixed with more flour and other ingredients to make bread or pizza dough or whatever. The eerie thing about the starter is that it’s alive – a yeast beast – and it takes over your kitchen.
Actually, if it had taken over my kitchen, there’d be no problem. But it took over Carole’s kitchen, and that became a bit of a… topic for much discussion. And she probably didn’t mean it – at least that’s what she told the police when they came – but she threatened to do away with my starter!
Things have settled down now. The starter is still alive and breathing. (I can’t say where I’m keeping it, in case she reads this.) I’ve made four loaves of sourdough bread, and dough for four sourdough pizzas from the starter. Carole and I agree that the bread and pizza dough were phenomenal.
The other activity that has taken over our isolated lives is the Netflix comedy series, Schitt’s Creek. We’ve binge watched several excellent TV series, but Shitt’s Creek is by far the funniest, most addictive. We strongly recommend it.
Eugene Levy and his son, Dan Levy, created the series, and both star in it, along with Catherine O’Hara from earlier Levy films. One episode gets me through a half hour of exercise on the recumbent bike, so it’s an important part of my workout regimen.
All six seasons are on Netflix. Carole and I are slowing down watching it because we’re on season 4, and we don’t want it to be over. It’s that good. Depending on how long the quarantine lasts, we’ll be searching for another series to watch while working out.
Or maybe I just focus solely on perfecting and expanding my sourdough life. I understand there are sourdough pancakes, brownies, cookies, tortillas, muffins, and God knows what else.
And if I can figure out how to do all my sourdough mixing while on the recumbent bike (which is in our bedroom), Carole’s kitchen will remain a lot cleaner. It’s a win-win.