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Making Things Just to Make Things
Lessons from loaves
I briefly mentioned in last week's post that I had started making sourdough bread recently. And yes, I know that this was peak trendy in 2020, and the internet has moved on now (to what, I'm not sure, but I think it involves feta cheese and TikTok).
I was curious enough about sourdough during that trend a couple of years ago to read something about making my own starter but glazed over a few minutes into the description of grams of water and flour and regular feedings. Also, my little two-person household just doesn't consume that much bread, so it seemed like a lot of work when there are plenty of places near me where I could just buy an artisanal loaf if I had a particular craving.
Plus, there's always the (sometimes not so) softly running internal narrative that I don't need to add anything else to my plate. I never manage to get to all the books I want to read around topics relevant to my writing here (Burnout is still in my stack after buying it a year ago, it took me six months to read All About Love, and I've been reading Rest is Resistance for at least that long.) Not to mention I could work more ahead on these posts so I wasn't always writing in the day or two prior to publishing. And... then there are those higher ed-related articles I keep thinking about pitching. If I'm not getting to the really meaningful stuff, why add more?
Just buy the bread.
So I did. For the last couple of years, I just bought the bread for our avocado toast, egg sandwiches, and toast with marmalade. Until recently, when a colleague posted in the work group chat that he had some starter up for grabs if anyone was interested, and I typed back I'd love some. Because I guess deep down inside, I was still curious, and so if someone was going to take the work out of all that weighing out grams of flour and water and waiting for bubbles, well then sure, sign me up.
Of course, all the reasons not to embark on this journey came up pretty quickly after my reply, but now there was also this jar of starter sitting in the work refrigerator waiting for me to take it home. And so I owed it to it to try it at least once.
In the spirit of trying this thing out but not spending hours and hours reading about all the nuances of sourdough, I talked to two friends who I knew had experience. They each sent me their go-to recipes and guidelines. I read those and dove in. The first loaf was too wet, the second too dry. The third was just right. When I felt a little confused about the whole concept of "feeding" the starter, I asked another friend to explain his process (he also explained that it was of utmost importance to name my starter.)
In the process of baking these loaves and getting the hang of storing and feeding Stanley, I realized that I could just make bread every week or two when we needed it. I didn't need to turn my kitchen into a commercial bakery, churning out multiple loaves a week. I could just practice and learn when we actually needed bread. Also, doing this on my work-from-home Mondays actually provides a really nice cadence to my day, giving me natural reasons to get up from my desk to check on the rising dough, stretch it, shape it, and bake it.
But the biggest thing I've gotten from this experience by far is that I've remembered the joy of doing a thing just to do it. It's fun to just be curious about something and explore it without being overly attached to the outcome. This isn't something I'm sharing with the world (though if you show up at my house for breakfast, there will likely be toast). I'm not trying to learn all the things and synthesize all the options.
I'm just making some bread.
And it feels like a little respite from creating things in front of the world; those things meant to be consumed and interpreted by others. I'm re-thinking that whole "not room on my plate" argument. Perhaps making space for these projects we do just for ourselves, this making just to make, isn't wasted time at all but instead imperative to nourishing our creativity.
Beautiful Thing of the Week
Just one little thing bringing me a spot of joy this week. See last week’s longer list here.
📕🍞by is an obvious choice this week! Such a fun concept, and there are plenty of non-sourdough options if you're feeling inspired to make something just to make something and would like that thing to be bread.
Would love to hear about your experiences with creative hobbies that are different from the creative work you put into the world. Do you have trouble giving yourself space for these? What do you make just make?
Be well, find tiny joy-
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I realize that this is also not the trend, but I’m not on TikTok, so I’m taking artistic liberty here.
We are apparently big on bread at breakfast time in my house.
You still actually have to do all that stuff regularly to keep the starter healthy, but it isn’t that hard once you do it a couple times. It’s easier in practice than it sounds reading about it.