For weeks, I have been caring for and feeding a small sourdough starter. I am yet to make sourdough.
It started like all sourdough starters start: on a Saturday morning, boyfriend and I mixed one part flour with one part water and kissed, gently, hoping for the best. We were looking for anything to stop the fighting.
“Next week, we’ll make sourdough,” said boyfriend. That was three weeks ago. We have yet to make sourdough.
Boyfriend left for the week and I continued to feed our starter. Every morning, I scooped out a thick gloop of dough water and replaced it with equal parts flour and water. Then, I fried the waste dough in a pan and ate it. It didn’t taste good but I felt better knowing it was the least wasteful—and consequently right—thing to do.
When boyfriend came back the next weekend, our starter hadn’t grown.
“Are you doing it right?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, passing him a plate of sourdough-discard pancake. “I’m following the instructions.”
“Yum,” he said. “I love the texture.”
By the second week I was feeding it twice a day. I’d learned to boil and cool the water to get rid of any chlorine. The first time our starter doubled in size, I sent boyfriend photos from three angles.
“Look!” I said, and he did. We have yet to make sourdough.
I took to keeping the sourdough starter in my bedroom, where it is warmer. I’d wake in the middle of the night, worried the room had grown too cold. When boyfriend came over on Friday, we drank wine and then woke hungover on the Saturday.
“I have to feed the starter,” I said.
Boyfriend told me to relax, that he’d do it. I got up anyway and checked on the starter. It had bubbled to a nice size, but the sides were beginning to deflate. It was hungry.
“Sorry,” I said. “I really have to do it now.”
Boyfriend made a groaning sound and rolled over in bed.
“Let’s make sourdough today,” said boyfriend, hours later, grimacing through another sourdough pancake.
“Okay,” I said. We have yet to make sourdough.
After three weeks of caring for my sourdough starter, I am tired and cranky and I do not want to care for my sourdough starter.
“Can’t you do it?” I ask boyfriend. He tries, but gets the flour to water ratio wrong, so I take it off him. He doesn’t want to eat the sourdough pancakes anymore either, so I start throwing the discard down the drain.
“How about I take the starter for the week,” he suggests. He’s noticed me glaring at it from across the room.
“You have to look after it,” I say. The day before, we forgot to feed it. It doubled in size, then deflated back into a pathetic puddle. I saw it and almost cried, though I was probably faking it.
“I’ll take great care of it,” says boyfriend. When he leaves Monday morning, he forgets to take it with him. I text him a photo. He texts back a Guardian article about raising children in isolation, then drives back to pick it up that very same day.
“Twice a day,” I tell him. He nods, smiles and kisses me on the lips.
All week, I think about our sourdough starter. I want to text boyfriend but hold back. In my dreams, our sourdough starter is dead. The worst part is, I am happy. I text boyfriend and he tells me not to worry. The point is to relax, he says. He is the fun one, I suppose.
He comes over on Friday and our sourdough starter has not doubled but tripled in size.
We have yet to make sourdough.
Emma Hardy is a writer and creative working in Naarm (Melbourne). Her writing has been published in The Monthly, The Lifted Brow, Voiceworks and Going Down Swinging. She’s interested in feminism, activism and the environment. She sometimes tweets @emahrdy.