A recent sourdough bread bake I’ve always been one inclined to have cooking spurts on the weekends - a batch of tomato sauce, meals for the week (one of my go-to’s for this is Food52’s “New Way to Dinner” cookbook), sourdough bread for dinners, etc. Cooking is something that’s different than my day job in so many ways and that transition from sitting at a computer, pretty much just using my brain (and fingers to type) to really using more of my senses - touch, taste, smell - to accomplish something that is delicious, satisfying, and as many folks have put it, a way to “put love onto a plate”. I cook for the folks in my life that I care for, whether it’s making macarons for a friend’s baby shower, a fancy multi-course wine dinner to (I’ll admit) try and show off and we all bring dishes and wine to share, making my “go-to” comfort dinner combo of roasted meat, potatoes and a vegetable, or my most recent adventure: my mom’s famous carrot cake for my and Jeremy’s birthdays.

One of the things I love about cooking is there’s always something new to learn, a new technique, a new ingredient to try, or seeking the “best” recipe for a favorite dish. I’ve tried to push myself culinarily to tackle some of the foods that I typically would just buy at the store or that I found intimidating to make. This started pre-pandemic with making our own sourdough bread. We used to regularly buy sourdough from a local bakery but one month they changed their recipe and used a different starter, and it completely changed the flavor and texture of the bread. So something that we had been buying every two weeks for the past few years we now didn’t love.

Jeremy had dabbled in making bread but it wasn’t something I’d ventured into more than foccacia for a pasta dinner. But with this new void in our carbohydrate life I chatted with a friend who bakes regularly and he provided me with a bit of his sourdough starter…that was in January 2019. Now I’ve forgotten to feed the starter every once in a while, and typically only bring it out of the fridge on weekends, but it’s seen me through 18+ months of bread making and still going strong. I tried to be very scientific in my first few batches, carefully following (and still do) the gram measurements of flour, water and salt, being very precise with oven temperature and when things didn’t turn out as expected, trying to change only one variable to see how that affected the final product. I’d like to say I’ve gotten pretty good at it so far, aided by two banneton proofing baskets and a lame (aka razor blade on a handle).

Everything bagels Since the pandemic has started I’ve ventured into other starch-based foods I’ve only ever bought like bagels, hamburger buns and dumplings. The thing I’ve found the most interesting (and I’m sure this can expand into a larger life lesson) is that I had a preconception about these foods that they were difficult to make, and admittedly many are quite time consuming and/or labor-intensive, but if you just take your time and carefully follow the recipe (and if you’re me, read it through multiple times as you inevitably miss a step or ingredient otherwise), you can end up with some pretty delicious results (even if they don’t look quite like you get at a restaurant).

At the end of a cooking spurt, I end up both having a tasty result as well as a great feeling of accomplishment. It may not be the prettiest ever, but hearing that satisfied "mmmm" from someone you care about, and knowing you've made something for them that they are enjoying and that will nourish them, really fills you up, even when (and especially when) the rest of the world feels kind of empty and chaotic.