The Sweet Potato Project, Day 1: Sourdough Starter

It’s time to dust off this long-abandoned blog for a new ongoing series: the Sweet Potato Project.

The title for this project came from a conversation in therapy today.  I have a thing for overly complicated metaphors, and this one’s really more of a parable:

I feel like I’m ravenously hungry, and I just sat down at a restaurant serving Papua New Guinean food.  I’ve never eaten this cuisine in my life; the ingredients and techniques only look vaguely familiar, let alone the names of the dishes.  There are hundreds of options on the menu, and while many of them are probably delicious and satisfying, I don’t know which ones will be.  But at the bottom of the menu is a simple hamburger.  It’s not the most delicious thing on the menu, or the healthiest, or the most interesting — but at least I know it’ll keep away the hunger for a little while.

I want to stop ordering the hamburger and start trying new dishes.  Each time I order something new, I may never order it again, but over time, it’ll help me learn what foods are best at making that hunger go away.

The hunger is my depression.

The hamburger is the familiar distractions of internet and reading and television.

The Papua New Guinean menu is the rest of the universe.

I’d picked Papua New Guinea because, off the top of my head, I knew literally nothing about the country’s cuisine — just that it sometimes involved underground pig roasts.  (True fact.)  When I came home, I started researching, and I discovered that while some of the techniques and ingredients are new to me, many of them aren’t.  In fact, Papua New Guinea’s biggest staple crop is the familiar sweet potato, called kaukau in Tok Pisin; they eat over 1000 lbs of it per year (not a typo!), by far the greatest per-capita consumption in the world.  I love sweet potatoes in almost every form — roasted, boiled, fried, baked into pie . . . — so it seemed like an appropriate name for this project.

Today, I started simple: I began a sourdough starter from scratch.  One of the things I’d like to try is baking more and different breads, and this seemed like a good beginning.  I’ll post updates as it develops over the next few days!

I adapted my starter combination from this site, mixing together 170g orange juice, 55g all-purpose flour, and 55g organic barley flour.  The house is cool in the middle of winter, so I expect it’ll develop slowly — but that’s true of most worthwhile things.

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One comment on “The Sweet Potato Project, Day 1: Sourdough Starter

  1. […] days, when the hunger feels almost unbearable, I don’t have the energy to try something new at the metaphorical restaurant.  I don’t even have the energy to read the menu.  The best I can manage is to order my […]

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