Tag Archives: Friends

Adventures in Sourdough

A little over a year ago I read (and blogged about) Robin Sloan’s Sourdough. One thing I didn’t mention in that post was that I wanted a sourdough starter. I did once own a sourdough starter but the guy who gave it to me neglected to tell me that I had to feed it, although he did send me a recipe for sourdough pancakes. His sourdough (from Alaska) was apparently descended from sourdough starters that the gold rush guys created. Needless to say, the sourdough starter died before I had a chance to use it.

Around Christmastime last year my son, who’d been given a sourdough starter a few weeks earlier, shared some with me and taught me how to feed it. I was hooked. I loved how the regular feedings of flour and water made the starter grow and bubble. I attempted my first couple of loaves of bread using just the nurtured starter. It was delicious, but didn’t rise liked I’d hoped. For my next attempt, I used yeast as well, and it rose beautifully.

I’ve continued to nurture my starter and occasionally bake a loaf of bread or a make pizza crust — which turns out fine, but is a little thick for my tastes.

One thing I didn’t know about sourdough starter is that you must discard all but 4 ounces each time you feed it. I didn’t like that idea — throwing out an organism that I’d nurtured and fed so carefully, so I tried to find ways to use the discard. One way was to make sourdough waffles — which made the fluffiest and most tasty waffles remember having ever eaten.

A month ago I was selected as host for our long-running book group and I chose Sourdough as the book we’d read. When I host book group I always serve food from the book we’ve read — this one was pretty easy. Sourdough! I also decided that I would make enough viable starter so my book group friends could take some home.

Not long after the earlier book group I started collecting the sourdough discard in a separate container than my personal batch. As the month continued I continued to regularly feed my batch, but also fed the discard. It didn’t take too long to have a 7-quart bowl full of sourdough starter sitting on the top shelf of my refrigerator. Not being a wiz in math I was not sure how much I would need for my friends. (duh — 12 4 ounce portions equals a lot less than 7 quarts). I even made a gluten-free starter for my gluten-free book group members.

7 quarts of bubbling ripe sourdough starter.
7 quarts of sourdough starter

So what was I going to do with 5 and a half quarts of lethargic sourdough starter? I googled “composting sourdough starter” and discovered that sourdough starter was a great addition to compost so I grabbed my bowl and headed to the compost bin. I opened it, started scraping the starter and saw bubbles form. I absolutely could not throw this living thing into my compost bin. There had to be another way.

So I advertised free sourdough starter on the neighborhood email list:

Dona Patrick
Fri, Apr 26, 5:39 PM (2 days ago)
to htcanet

I made far too much sourdough starter for my books group (we read Sourdough by Robin Sloan) and before I toss it in my compost bin I thought I would find out if any neighbors were interested in some. It will need to be fed once you get it home.
If so, let me know before Sunday evening.

Dona

I received only one response so I knew I needed to go farther afield if I wanted to find a home for more of the starter so I sent the same email to an email list that encompassed our whole zip code. It wasn’t long before I received ten more emails from people wanting sourdough starter. We negotiated pick-up times and people began arriving.

Everyone who has picked up the starter so far has been excited to get it, friendly and talkative. One woman needed assistance up the steps, other people have walked to the house — some with children in tow.

A couple have not responded to emails asking when they plan on coming, so I sent an email saying I was closing up shop at 1:00 pm. Two more will contact me when they get back to town. I have enough left for the stragglers and no-shows if they do still want some.

A few cups of lethargic sourdough starter
Not much left — this needs to be fed!

This has been a fun experience — I am not really surprised that sourdough starter is a prized commodity — I sure wanted some not long ago and apparently it is a big thing with millennials. I rarely meet the neighbors on the 20187 email list, so I am enjoying that aspect of it. Plus my sourdough starter has gone to some good homes. Maybe people will think about meeting me as they feed their starters years from now. Or maybe they will let it die. Either way, it is out of my hands.

And Robin Sloan is who I really have to thank for this week of sharing the starter with friends and neighbors.

Frances Lide: First Woman in a Washington News Room

Alexandria Packet November 13, 1986

by Maria Kavanagh
Special to the Packet

Frances Lide had been in Washington only a few hours when she lost practically everything she owned.

This was 1934 when the Depression blanketed the country and losing everything meant just that.

“I had come to Washington from South Carolina to get a job with one of the New Deal agencies until I could find a job as a journalist. Jobs on newspapers, as most other jobs, were incredibly difficult to come by.”

She tells of her introduction to Washington with a wry detachment:

“A friend had met me at the railroad station with a borrowed car. On the way to my hotel we stopped at his boarding house where I had been invited for dinner. Afterwards, as we were leaving for the hotel we discovered that my large suitcase with all my winter clothes — it was December — and practically everything else I owned, had been stolen. Fortunately, I had carried in with me a small bag with my letters of introduction and a few toilet articles.”

Her letter to the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General got her a job as a clerk-typist in the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Public Works within a few days. But typing up labels wasn’t exactly what she had in mind when she came to Washington. Determined to write, she constantly made the rounds of every newspaper, wire service and agency which might use a journalist. Meanwhile, along with her government job, she wrote regular columns from Washington for North and South Carolina papers.

After a year of dogged persistence, she was hired as the first woman in the news room at the Washington Star.

“I was hired to cover Eleanor Roosevelt’s weekly press conferences. Mrs. Roosevelt insisted upon being covered only by women. Most women journalists at that time were society editors and society columnists and had had no experience.”

But before coming to Washington, Frances Lide had done it all. Forced to leave college because of lack of funds — her father had been an invalid, her mother supported the family on a meager salary — Lide found a job on the local paper in Greenville, S.C. On these papers she had been called upon to do every kind of reporting, as well as some editing and “sometimes sweeping the floors.” she says with a laugh.

After three exhausting years of working six days a week, from 7 a.m often until midnight and sometimes on Sundays, when, because of the Depression, she became one of only two people left on the paper, she realized she had to make a change.

However, it was on the strength of this very experience that she was hired at the Star. Her starting salary was $25 a week.

Lide_cartoonAsked about how she was received in the news room, Lide says with amusement  “They didn’t know how to treat me. When I walked in at 7 a.m. on Monday morning, they were all busy typing at their desks. No one looked up. No one said ‘Good Morning.’ But after a week or so they gradually became more friendly. And after that I never felt uncomfortable.

Newspaper women in those days were not taken too seriously by their male counterparts. Often referred to as ‘sob-sisters’ or ‘news-hens,’ most of them covered social events.

“It sounds curious in today’s world,” she says thoughtfully. “If a breaking story involved a woman, I would be sent on it. But there seemed to be an unwritten rule that only a man could get a particularly tough or grisly story.”

Yet, in a recent profile on Jane Pauley in the Washington Post, her “Today Show” partner, Bryant Gumbel admitted there were territorial lines on their interviews. “I think there may be a tendency if there’s an interview that has to be done with any, shall we say tenderness — a recently widowed father, or a sick child — Jane may get that one, Gumbel says. “And if it’s a real put-on-the-gloves one, Bryant will probably do better than I do,” says Pauley. “But I do those too, and Bryant does some pretty sensitive tear-jerkers.”

Frances is on the left. The woman with the boxes is not Eleanor Roosevelt. The paper printed a correction the next week.
Frances is on the left. The woman with the boxes is not Eleanor Roosevelt. The paper printed a correction the next week.

Eleanor Roosevelt held her press conference every Monday morning.

“Going to the White House was much simpler in those days. The gates were always open. We just walked up to the front door where the butler admitted us, gave our names to an usher and that was all there was to it.”

When asked how the men felt about being excluded, Lide says, “Naturally there was some resentment because Mrs. Roosevelt so often made real news. Although I was in my twenties, I would be completely exhausted when I would have to follow her around for a day on a story.”

Lide remembers only one event which reporters were not allowed to cover except by standing outside the gates.

“Mrs Roosevelt had visited the National Training School for Girls (a sort of detention home). Appalled at the conditions there, she — always warm-hearted and generous — had impulsively invited the girls to come to tea. We had to watch from the outside.”

World War II completely changed the field of journalism. With more and more men called into service, more women were hired and sent out on every kind of story. Women reporters were no longer an oddity in the newsrooms. “Even the society pages focused more on news items than simply accounts of social events,” says Lide.

In her last years on the Star, Lide took over the home furnishing section of the Sunday Magazine. In 1968 she received the National Press Award from the National Society of Interior Designers for outstanding feature reporting of interior design and the decorative home furnishing industry.

Since her retirement in 1970, she has done freelance stories on historic houses and furnishings, has served as the coordinator in publishing a cookbook of old Alexandria recopies for the 40th anniversary of the Beverly Hills Church on Old Dominion Boulevard and did the interviews and research for the North Ridge History Committee for a book on North Ridge lore.

When the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History celebrated the Eleanor Roosevelt Centennial, she was one of the four panelists who spoke on how the First Lady changed her life.

Frances Lide reminisces in the manner of a true reporter. In her soft voice with its trace of a Southern accent, she shares her past with humor and a little surprise that we would find her experiences fascinating.

Her house in Alexandria, tucked away in a quiet, shady cul-de-sac is set in a lovely, almost quaint garden which she cares for with the help of an occasional yard man. Ivy, lilies and quince bushes splash unusual colors here and there.

She cuts the lawn herself, is busy with her family, friends and church work. And she still finds there aren’t enough hours in the day to do the writing she hopes to do.

Maria Kavanaugh last wrote for the Packet on illiteracy in Alexandria.
 

Patchwork garden

grandma's quiltWhen I was a child and would visit my Grandma Patrick, sometimes she’d tell me about the patchwork quilt that hung over the back of her sofa in her living room. Its pattern was of tulips in pots and suns with beams. Flowered material made up the border. As we sat under the quilt she’d point to a pot or a flower or a sunbeam and tell me about the piece of clothing that it came from. Sometimes her own, sometimes one of her 4 daughters. There even were pieces of shirts from my dad and his dad, her husband.

mountain mintTo me this quilt was special, not only because she made it herself, but it was made up of scraps of material that once clothed her family. This quilt now hangs on a sofa in my house. While I don’t remember whose dress or shirt each flowerpot or sunbeam was made from, I have told my children about it. Maybe someday they will tell their children too.

fall blooming crocusI thought about this quilt last night after thinking of the plants that will go into the bed in my front yard. I’ve hired my neighbor, Terese, a professional garden designer to plan the bed, and she’s come up with a great design. She’s purchased some plants for it, but we will incorporate some existing plants from the bed and take some from other places in my yard that I planted without knowledge of what they needed in the way of sunlight, drainage, etc. A few of these plants were from the garden of my friend, Bob, who reluctantly moved away from the neighborhood last December. We’re also getting a few plants from my friend, Alison. Terese is giving me some plants from her garden and maybe some from a community garden.

So my garden will be somewhat of a patchwork garden, plants from friends and neighbors will grow next to newly purchased plants. Plants that are re-purposed — just like the cloth in Grandma’s quilt. And it will be all the better for it. Maybe, when my future grandchildren visit, I will tell them about the people who gave me each of the plants; about Bob and what a beautiful garden he had or about my friend Alison and her family, with whom we had some amazing times. If only I’d remembered to take the plants that Frances gave me from my yard in Alexandria when we moved to Bethesda.