Sourdough curatorship 09 text by Heather Lovelady
 
Cultural Capital (2009)

Sourdough curatorship   (June 16 th – June 26 th )

I didn't know what I was getting into when I agreed at our Church Council meeting on June 10 th to be the ‘curator' of   a sourdough culture to be used as part of a storytelling workshop at Somewhere Else Methodist Church here in Liverpool on June 25 th .

Curious, I finally had a chance to access the Glorious Ninth website over that weekend.   I thought the concept was fabulous – just wished it had been around in 2008 for Liverpool European Capital of Culture year! The curator's protocols seemed fairly innocuous so I forgot about it in the rush of life in general!

It threw me to receive an e-mail on 16 th June from Patrick to say the starter was on its way and wishing me good fun and an interesting week.   It's certainly been the latter!

You could say I have a fair amount of experience as a bread maker, baking over the years and facilitating at the Somewhere Else community on a Tuesday for two years.   When living in Canada I nurtured, and regularly baked from, a sourdough starter for several months too, but that was a long time ago I realised…!

My ‘baby' duly arrived at News from Nowhere bookshop on Bold Street in Liverpool and I was stuck in work on Wirral with no plans to go through the tunnel until Thursday…   How to ensure it was properly cared for?   Suffice it to say that I have made several extra trips to Liverpool this week – to pick up the starter and fetch bowls and ingredients, but since we are not around at church every day I had no choice but to bring it home to ensure it was fed on cue and stirred once a day!

Protocols were followed without incident until Monday morning (Day 7) when I decided I needed to read up on how to bake sourdough bread since I understood Laura, the storytelling facilitator, was hoping to use the starter to make bread, serve some at lunchtime and base the workshop around this theme.

Not a problem I had thought… Let me explain: we make bread on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Somewhere Else, starting at 10.30am and by 2.00pm the dough is mixed and kneaded, twice-risen and baked, we have tucked into rolls and soup for lunch and completed the washing up!

Realisation hit – sourdough was different!   I was going to need two full days and nights to ready the starter to achieve what I'd agreed to do for Cultural Capital (2009) and what Laura was hoping for at our ‘event' on Day 10!

It is now Wednesday afternoon (Day 9) and there are three loaves rising to be baked tomorrow morning ready for lunch (I used four starter portions to achieve this plus a recipe found in an old cookbook on the shelf and was to be seen dividing and mixing at close to midnight last night!).   Two portions of starter are waiting to be fed to make the ‘sponge' overnight so some people can make their own loaves/rolls during the morning tomorrow.   That leaves 4 portions – one for the next Cultural Capital (2009) ‘curator', two for Laura to take back to Cornwall on Friday and one for us at Somewhere Else to ‘grow' to distribute to the many participants and community members who will no doubt be hoping for a portion tomorrow: they will have to wait another week and it looks as though my curatorship continues!

Interesting and fun? – I'll say!!

Heather Lovelady

 

Addendum

It's now Wednesday July 8 th and I'm ready to divide the second starter base into its ten parts for distribution to community members and friends…

You will see from the photos of our story making event, almost two weeks ago now, that I had indeed baked three loaves ready for lunch – and from the ‘sponge' transported back to Somewhere Else by bus that morning we each ‘created' and baked a roll to use as a story ‘starter'.  

In fact it hadn't taken overnight for the loaves to do their rising…   If you remember we were in the middle of a rare British heat wave and this meant that in just 3 hours the loaves had almost doubled in size and were ready for baking!!   Lucky I was around that evening!

Returning the starter portion to Kate and Patrick after the ‘event', I enlisted the help of my husband's secretary.   I told her the package was live and needed to arrive at its destination within 24 hours.   Unable to stay for the pick up, I learned the next day that she was convinced there was an animal of some kind in the box!!

 

What have I learned from the curatorship experience?   Just like a baby, the sourdough needs regular care and attention to its individual needs, which can be environmentally dependant.   I suspect it also responds to parental ‘moods'!  

With the help of the fridge to slow things down if necessary, I hope to be able to continue to ready a ‘sponge' for baking at Somewhere Else for the foreseeable future.  

‘Culture Curator' for life….?

Heather Lovelady