Yeast

Here are some yeast stories:

There’s something about being in isolation that makes a person want to bake. I started by trying to make hamburger buns for our first isolation birthday. The practice round was so successful with the kids, that I kept making them, and I played around with the recipe, making spiral rolls and garlic rolls. And then, just like that, I was out of yeast. And Giant was out of yeast. And Sue’s was out of yeast. No one has whole wheat flour either.

I complained on Facebook, and a friend who had just received her mail order of a pound of yeast said she would put some in the mail for me this week. What a tender gesture! I never would have let myself accept such an offer in the Before, but now, Yes, please and thank you. And such a feeling of being cared for.

My sister also ran out of yeast. As she was on a walk the other day, a neighbor who was unloading groceries from the car called out and asked her if she needed paper towels. No, my sister called from a safe distance, but yeast–now that’s a difficult thing to come by. Just a couple days later, her neighbor dropped off yeast at my sister’s door.

The sharing takes on a sacramental edge these days. And yeast. Sharing yeast is sharing something even more elemental than a cup of sugar. No matter how much I research and study what yeast is and how it (they?) does its work, it will always be something mystical, something magical, to me. Bread and wine, the elements of sacrament in more than just the Christian tradition, are both yeast-based. I once heard someone talking about the two kinds of plants–monocotyledons and dicotyledons–and how corn is a monocot and grapes are a dicot, and that the elements of bread and wine bring together those two forms of plants with the magic of yeast and fermentation. And I think I won’t try to wrap that up with a nice essayist’s conclusion. It feels like a mystery that needs to stay quietly behind the veil, hinted at, marveled at, unexplained for now.

While I await the precious gift of yeast from Joan, I have begun to capture my own wild yeasts. They say that the yeast of any place is distinctly OF that place. So these are my Goldfinch Yeasts. Is is a flock? A herd? They’ve been bubbling for days, strong and lively, and today they smell sour and yeasty. Yeast Beings, I greet you.


Capturing Yeast: I’ve done this before, but it’s been years, so I watched some videos and read some tutorials. Here’s the process I’ve been using:

In a wide-mouthed jar, I put 3 Tbsp. of flour and 2 Tbsp. of water. Mixed, covered with a special cotton cloth and rubber band (perhaps any cloth will do), and let stand in a warm place for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, I stirred. Then another 12 hours later, I added another 3 Tbsp. flour and 2 Tbsp. water. The tutorials say five days until yeast is ready for baking. This is the morning of day five for me. Tomorrow, I will find a recipe and bake. Maybe pizza dough for supper, or rolls for the boys to snack on. And some day we’ll find whole wheat flour again. Meanwhile, it’s white bread.

That’s the process. Stir every 12 hours, and feed every 24 hours. Though none of the experts have mentioned it, I suspect it might be helpful to sing to them as you stir, or to speak poetry to them. Greeting them and praising them can’t hurt.


Gratitude List:
1. Yeast
2. People who share yeast
3. Bread and wine
4. Awaiting oriole
5. The promise of a new week.

May we walk in Mystery.


“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
―Ursula K. Le Guin


“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” ―Claude Monet


“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” ―Malala Yousafzai


I called through your door,
“The mystics are gathering in the street. Come out!”
“Leave me alone. I’m sick.”
“I don’t care if you’re dead! Jesus is here,
and he wants to resurrect somebody!”
―Jalaludin Rumi


“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”
―Jalaluddin Rumi


“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
―Anaïs Nin


“Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn’t fear boundaries, but you should not be afraid of destroying them. That’s what is most important if you want to be free: respect for and exasperation with boundaries.”
―Haruki Murakami


“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.” —Richard Rohr