Our little bundle of pandemic (sourdough) starter—a bouncy, bubbly baby bursting with a subtle tangy sass—is just over a year old. Not to be underestimated, this little gem of cultivated wild yeast, is a sturdy beast, turning out bowls and loaves of bread—and pizza—two-three times a week, and it’s time to celebrate the fact that we—the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team (Nate)—have kept this thing alive in the refrigerator despite waves of power outages, online learning, and curious cat shenanigans.
But how does one properly celebrate a starter dough’s birthday? Obviously, you would bake a giant submarine sandwich roll, fill it with meatballs, and celebrate National Meatball Day on the same day that you celebrate the fact that your sourdough starter is still alive. National Meatball Day is August 23rd in Sweden this year. We missed it in the United States—it was March 9th, but hey! It’s March 9th somewhere in the world, so cheers! However, if you are a purist who wants to celebrate Meatball Day on March 9th and keep it separate from a sourdough starter celebration, you could try the following ideas, which I’ve cooked up just for you:
–Serenade the sourdough starter with acoustic guitar melodies. Luckily, we have an acoustic guitar. We’ve added it to the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks family. It’s an early high-school graduation present for Alex who almost made it through Book Four in the Suzuki Violin series, stopped playing for a few years, but then picked it up again and was using bits and pieces of plastic to pick the strings in the exact tune of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are.” We were amazed, but also worried about the violin’s health, so we got him a guitar.
While we’re at it, let’s pause and talk about what you might need to know when shopping for a guitar.
Step 1: While Nate is at the jeweler’s, getting his wedding band resized, he might pop over to the music store in the mall and wander about.
Step 2: Nate will text, “Hey! I found a new Yamaha guitar—great price. Should I get it?”
Step 3: Text back: Sure—why not?
Step 4: Nate will text: What should I know about buying a guitar?
Step 5: Text back: Is there a salesperson nearby?
Step 6: Nate will text an eager “yes,” just knowing that he’ll get a profound answer back.
Step 7: Text the following: Ask questions you would ask a salesperson.
Step 8: Silence.
Step 9: Nate calls.
Step 10: Discuss how you have no idea what an acoustic guitar should have or do, but you should buy it anyway.
Step 11: Surprise Alex by placing a guitar pick in his pizza (made with the pandemic starter).
Step 12: Spend the evening watching YouTube videos about the “D” chord.
–Get a vaccine. Just go whoopin’ and hollerin’ off to the mass vaccination sites and get jabbed for a rip-roaring good time you can share (later) with your sourdough starter. I am pleased to announce that all members of the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team (except for the cat) have had the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Nate’s vaccination was a sweet deal in Costco, where they took their time, and let him wait a full fifteen minutes, and then I walked him past the enormous meat and fish displays for about fifteen minutes more—just to be sure. Alex and I, on the other hand, got the “wild ride” approach. We were jabbed, “drive-through” style at the county fairgrounds, which is where Alex told them that he is allergic to sulfa drugs, but we were pretty sure that those drugs were not in the vaccine. Just in case, they wrote “30-minute wait” on the windshield, and we pulled up behind other cars, that were waiting, but we kept pulling up every few seconds. After five minutes, both Alex and I started to feel kind of weird: fast heart rate, tingling palms, dizziness, and a few moments of “is my life actually flashing before my eyes? Am I having a reaction? Should I honk the horn to put everyone on high alert? Flares? Should I use road flares?” Then, the moment passed. Still a little shaken, we were waived through—onto the freeway! After only eight minutes! It was the most exciting vaccine we’ve ever gotten. (Nate got flu-like symptoms; Alex and I just got the crap scared out of us, but what a story to tell the pandemic starter in our refrigerator!)
–Take your sourdough starter on a trip to see the world. Yes! You can travel on a plane with sourdough starter, according to the first of 572,000 results that popped up on the internet when I ran the search: “Can I take sourdough starter on a plane?” Three-point-four ounces of the stuff can go into a carry-on (in its own container—don’t stick it in the same travel bag as your shampoo and personal creams). Also, this goes without saying, but you should be prepared to answer a few TSA questions. Here are a few that come to mind:
*Did anyone, other than you, pack this sourdough starter?
*Besides sourdough starter, what else would this substance look like to me, someone who is supposed to be watching for dangerous things?
*How would you feel about sitting in the exit row?
–Play party games, such as the following:
*Spin-The-Sourdough-Starter. Ours is kept in a jar, so this game’s a no-brainer. (Make sure there is a protective lid, though—safety first!) We just spin the jar around—giving our starter a jazzy, disorienting sensation that makes it tingle all over. Then, when it stops, the open end is usually pointed towards Nate, who gets to feed the starter and make sure it lives another day.
*Musical chairs. This one’s played much like spin-the-starter above. When the music stops, Nate is usually left without a chair, so he gets to feed the starter again. He has all the fun!
*Never-Have-I-Ever—with drinks (or not). The trick is to make statements that only the sourdough starter can agree to, such as this one: Never have I ever overspilled my container in the refrigerator. Or: Never have I ever been reduced to 3.4 ounces and carried through TSA in a container.
–Decorate the container for the starter. Festive balloons and streamers are just the thing to get your starter in a party mood—and to frustrate the heck out the person who has to open the jar/container to feed it (Nate). Tightly wrapped bows and small, exploding toys add pop and sizzle to someone’s special day.
In Other News: I have a creative non-fiction piece up at Rejection Letters magazine: “Academia: The Board Game.”
Also, if you want to know how to make the starter, the recipe is included here, in this Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks post about using the starter for a pizza crust: “Sourdough Pizza and the House of my Dreams.”
Your Turn: What are you celebrating today (or this week)?