Tag Archives: Neighbors

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.

Best. Neighbors. Ever.

Skippy John Jones G.
Skippy John Jones G.

I look across the street tonight and see the blue Volvo and silver minivan parked where they’ve been for the past couple of years. I see Chris mowing his lawn. The other day I talked to Madeline, Anna, Molly and Carter about vacation Bible camp, Subway meals and trips to the Bay.

Nothing really, except the sad knowledge and “Under Contract” sign, indicates that tomorrow a moving truck will collect their furniture and move everything to Richmond. In two days a new family will move into the house across the street.

The current family couldn’t be any better. They are some of the sweetest people I have ever known. Chris took care of Andrew when he had his skin infection (knowing a dermatologist is handy). Madeline actively  participated in our neighborhood book group. Anna once stage whispered to a friend that Dean was really nice. Molly and Carter entertained us with their 3/4-year old antics.

And then there is Skippy John Jones G. who, although may have pooed on our lawn a few times, was the friendliest cat in the ‘hood. At least to neighbors and the mailman, who on more than one occasion sat on the stoop and gave Skippy a cuddle.

The new family has an incredible act to follow.

The G. family will be missed. Very much.

Parking Space Wars

Many of the homes on my quiet, narrow, suburban street have no driveway or garage (including ours) which means that cars are always parked along both sides of the street. Some of the homes have several drivers and often each driver has his or her own car and understandably everyone wants to park as close to their front door as possible.

Our across the street neighbor, when we first moved in, once knocked on our door in the middle of a party we were having to complain that someone had parked in front of her house. We had the offending car moved and made sure to never park in front of her house again.

A few years ago, after a teenager on the street got his license and a car to go with it, a parking space battle broke out. Sometimes one of the three cars from the home with the teenager would park a little over the next door neighbor’s property line and the neighbor would complain to whomever would listen about their parking spaces being infringed upon. The teenager or one of his parents would then park elsewhere on the street and another neighbor would complain. Finally they began parking on a side street and walked the half block to their own house in order to make peace with the neighborhood.

Because we live on a corner, our parking space is even more limited than other neighbors’ because one is not supposed to park within 16 feet of an intersection (which we discovered when we got a ticket for parking too close to the stop sign). We have three cars, but park at least one of them on a side street in order to not annoy our neighbors (although Andrew parks in front of a neighbors house all the time — they have a large parking area and have said they don’t mind him parking there).

The latest of the parking space battles is the silliest, I think, but then I’ve never been one for appearances. A neighbor who moved into a McMansion about a year ago apparently doesn’t appreciate another neighbor parking her old Cadillac in front of their house. About a month ago a large pile of branches found its way into the street in front of the new neighbor’s house. It is possible that the neighbors, being new, didn’t know that the county didn’t pick up branches over 4 feet long. it has been speculated that the neighbor put them there to prevent the old Cadillac from being parked in front of their home. I walked by the other day and was somewhat amused to see that the Cadillac was there, but behind the pile of branches.

Today I saw the branches were gone but the Cadillac has not been moved. The new neighbors do have a driveway and a garage, so their parking is taken care of. I doubt the Cadillac owner is parking in front of the McMansion out of spite — I just think it is easy for her do do so. I’m not well acquainted with either of these neighbors, but hope their battle, if indeed it is a battle, works itself out.

We’re not the only street with this problem in the area. My son once parked in another Bethesda neighborhood to help a friend’s family move furniture from a flooded basement to higher ground. When he returned to his car he found a nastily worded note on his windshield complaining about his parking in front of someone’s house.

My advice? Chill people. Life is too short for such pettiness.