My Sourdough Starter

Laura Munson finds an unlikely friend named Edgars.

Laura Munson
1 September 2020
Photo by Anshu A.

I love a homemade loaf of cut-the-roof-of-your-mouth bread. But I don’t bake. To become good at something, you have to tap into your intuition and play like a child. I know how to do this in parenting, writing, teaching, gardening, music, and cooking. But baking? No. In baking, there are too many measures and numbers and bad endings. It isn’t like writing at all. When words fall down, you can pick them up, put them back together, and make something new.

Every day, I stretch and fold.

I’ve been playing with words for forty years, mostly getting my nonfiction published, though my favorite genre is fiction. After seven years of working on my novel, Willa’s Grove, I finally realized my forty-year-old dream and went into the full flurry of book tour promotion. I was scheduled for two solid months on the road, doing speaking events and teaching workshops from coast to coast and in between.

Ten days in, with a global pandemic upon us, I had to call it and come home to Montana. The world was reeling with so many broken hearts that I felt small to share mine.

But an old friend called to check in. An old friend who has been giving me her homemade bread for years. I spilled my guts. The next day, she showed up with her sourdough starter. Its name was Edgars.

Six feet away instead of in a long lingering hug, she said, “The great thing about Edgars is that it needs you. And it’s very forgiving. Have fun.” It was as if she said, Time to trust your intuition again.

I privately balked. Something new to care for? I’m scared for our world. We’re fighting an enemy that we can’t look in the eye. But I shook hands with sticky, yeasty, nutty, tangy Edgars. And we’ve been playing for six weeks.

Edgars needs me when I start worrying about my next paycheck. Edgars needs me when I bemoan the early demise of my book tour. Edgars needs me when my hands want for something simple and straightforward. Edgars needs me when I think about this thing called Covid-19 and how it possibly could have hit our world so hard.

Every day, I stretch and fold. Shape loaves. Let them proof overnight. And the next morning, when I don’t want to get out of bed, I think of the proofed loaf in the refrigerator. And I get up for the “fun” that my friend promised. And that Edgars delivers.

Laura Munson

Laura Munson is the author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness.