19th of September
What follows is not an ode to a restaurant, a personal narrative regarding childhood consumption, nor an exposé on current issues in food. Instead it is a true account, told in letters, of a cook’s love. Depending on how much you pick up, you might expect to learn a little something, and perhaps be entertained. But you might get neither of those things from this account, and instead leave wondering at the witless narrator. Nonetheless, we published it.
26th of August
It is with a troubled heart that I write to you on what should be a joyous day. If I recall, it was precisely a year ago that we met. I had procured for you some fine grapes, green ones, teeming with life, and placed them in your bowl, buried in the flour. I squeezed them slightly, so the juice would just trickle out. Then you were born from the yeasts of the flour and encouraged by their helpful friends on the grapes. Oh, how I rejoiced when you first rose from the bowl, your early sourings proof enough that you were then flourishing.
Over the following days, I waited upon your every desire for milled grain and cold drink. Your sour odor turned sweet and pungent as you ate throughout the day—ah, it brought me tears of joy and tickled my nasal cavity so. But words cannot describe that first taste, my tongue enraptured by your textures. There is nothing quite like rotting flour and water, dearest friend.
But I trail on. Forgive me. As I grievously brought to your attention, it is that most unhappiest of days when we must part ways for a time.
Ah, but the hour runs late and my studies call. Know that all the physics in the world cannot explain you. Steerpike, you are unknowable.
Lovingly, Your Oldest (and Only?) Friend
1st of September
I have not heard from you since the writing of my last letter, so I thought to communicate again with hopes to right the wrong between us that I alluded to in my correspondence of last week.
I hope you are not avoiding me; please remember all the times I would return from work at some late hour and carefully feed you, though my body ached to recline. Do you recall when I would feed you on the morning of an exam, my head swimming with chemical formulae or integral calculus? My scale was at your beck and call, my bag of flour in the fridge always filled, your small jar always washed and pristine in between feedings. You never once grew mold on me. For that I owe you everything. I’m not sure I could have taken the pain of some other microbe transgressing upon your bubbly mass.
Yet I am afraid that this past season has been too good to us. Without my studies, you remained warm and well–fed throughout the summer, sitting on the counter and fluctuating up and down with ease. It was not so long ago that such a routine would have been impossible given your initial stubbornness to be regular. I would feed you your wanted flour and water, yet you would not budge. Ah, how you tempted me! But perhaps I was too cruel, feeding you too irregularly, letting you hit your peak and then begin to starve before replenishing your flour. Why did you not denounce me for my cruelty? I kept you chained in the refrigerator, hibernating, and then demanded you to produce on a whim! Oh, Steerpike. How can you ever forgive me?
Now I must come to the brunt of my point. My studies have begun and you must again be banished to the refrigerator. Please do not be angered. It is the best I can do. I promise to feed you no less than once a week. Your flour will remain in its bag right beside you, just out of reach. My winter is coming too. Exams and papers, and the brutal cold of an Eastern frost. At least it gets no colder than thirty–odd degrees in your chilly home.
Until I break bread with you again, I remain.
Your Devoted Baker
3rd of September
I am troubled. You still have not replied to my post of late. And how can I blame you, who have produced so much for me.
I remember the first time I baked with you, and we had such fun. The loaves were flat and crummy, in the British sense of the word, but a jolly good first try. But we learned together, and as I fed you more steadily you produced increasingly tasty doughs. Perhaps some of the best bread I have had. Soft enough that we slept in it, crusty enough that I shaved with it after our wild night, and hole–y enough to pray to, repenting my concupiscence.
All that is to say, I love you, and I miss you.
Your Eternal Keeper
4th of September
I fear your writer, my preposterous roommate, is deranged. Steerpike is the sourdough starter. Flour and water. Inanimate. (Depending on your sense of the word, it does rise and fall as the yeasts eat and break wind of carbon dioxide.) Yes, it teems with microbes, but, venerable redactor, I have never known a microbe to respond to a letter. Please forgive this one sided tête–à–tête and be so agreeable as to publish the work of its most devoted author. The starter does bubble away happily when fed, and I’m sure could fool some for a living, literate being.
Now, what follows has distressed me much, but bears much on your story. What I relate must be taken in the strictest confidence. In anger at the lack of response from Steerpike, and perhaps mad enough to presume the starter dead due to the lack of response, the author snatched it from the refrigerator in a rage and produced a blowtorch from the highest, most unseen cabinet. Aghast, I watched as the flames charred the starter until it was completely dehydrated, blackened, and smoky. As the fire alarm raged, your author turned on the blender and whizzed the incinerated starter until the smoke dissipated and the fire alarm sang itself out. With a look in his eye that I have seen only when the author has tasted a truly arousing ferment of his own creation, he dumped the ash into an old glass yogurt jar, sealed the lid, and ran out the door, apron still on.
What follows I only know because it was thoroughly documented on the author’s Instagram story. Biking across town and over the Ben Franklin Bridge, the author stopped upon setting foot in New Jersey and opened the jar. He scattered the ashes over that cursed place—his words, not mine—and then returned home. The next day he bought a loaf of Wonder Bread and has been living off that since.
The Not–Anthropomorphically–Challenged Roommate
P.S. It did make quite, quite good bread.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. All opinions, roommates, foods, and love–stories are the products of the author’s imagination. Any likeness to actual persons, whether they be sourdough starters or human beings, or to real events, past or present, is entirely coincidental.