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Chasing the Rise
Rainbows and Sourdough
Rainbows and Sourdough
I, like a lot of people during this pandemic, have been baking quite a bit of sourdough bread. I have baked for a few years, but not to this extent. It mostly came from necessity as my normal bread sources were closed due to COVID-19, and partially because it is comforting to be able to create something that is warm and nourishing. And it’s been a challenge. I have yet to bake the perfect loaf. In fact, I wonder if there is such a thing. Every step of the process contributes to the success, or failure, of the final product. And I’ve had a lot of failures. The good thing about bread failures are that they are still edible.
It’s not a surprise that baking sourdough bread is a lot like fly fishing — Another passion of mine. Everything that you do, from entering the water, to stalking the trout, reading the hatch, selecting the right fly, casting just right, and presenting the fly, contribute to enticing the trout enough to rise and take that feather, fur, thread, and hook that mimics the trout’s tasty tidbit.
A friend of mine and I once talked about how when you are learning how to fly fish it is the classic sales tactic of a loss leader… The first one is free. You can put anything on the water, in any manner, your first time out and you will catch the most glorious of fish. From then on it becomes one of the most challenging and frustrating of hobbies. And out of that you learn that the real gift of fly fishing is the zen. Standing in the middle of a river, the current flowing around you until you become one with the water; the trees, the soft light of dawn and the growing chorus of song birds as they awake and start their day. It is in the attempt to make the perfect cast that gives perspective.
I am starting to think that your first loaf of homemade sourdough is free as well. It’s glorious and brown and warm and tastes like heaven. It’s what hooks you into doing the process again. Starting the leaven the night before; getting up to make the dough; letting it autolyse; hand mixing and folding every thirty minutes; bulk fermentation; first shaping; bench rest; final shaping; proofing; and finally baking. But from that first loaf, finding that perfection again is the supreme challenge. The final loaf is as wary to show itself as that fifteen inch wild rainbow. And again you find the zen in the process. In the rhythm of the bake. And you find perspective. It’s being in the kitchen and having the ingredients to feed yourself. It’s primal. Give us this day our daily bread and all that… It’s the feel of the dough and your connection to it as you do the folds.
Cooking is an act of love. It is providing nourishment as well as stimulating the senses. And I’ve found that baking sourdough is even more personal as you mix the dough by hand, fold by hand, shape by hand. At every step except for the oven the bread is made with your own two hands. And you realize that we have made bread like this since we stopped hunting and started farming.
So, if you are a fly fisher who hasn’t baked sourdough, go give it a try. Or if you make sourdough and haven’t tried fly fishing, rent a rod and give it a try. I promise both of you that you’ll get a good rise. As for me, I’ll be either here in the kitchen or out on river, striving for that elusive combination that ends in the perfect moment in time.
Sourdough bread and fly fishing, definitely Made With Love.
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John Harbour is a United States Air Force veteran where he was a hostage rescue sniper with the Emergency Services Team (EST) and the leader of an airborne quick response team (AFT). He was last stationed outside of Las Vegas in the middle of the Nevada desert. He also served as diplomatic protection at the United Nations headquarters in New York, is a classically trained actor, has tended bar, worked in advertising and technology and enjoys nothing more than traveling the world searching for stories.
John lives in New York City with his wife and is the author of articles, short fiction, and the novel Nighthawks. He is an incurable wanderlust and is currently working on the novel The Heart. His first non-fiction book, Diary of a Hippie: A Real-Life Journal of What to Expect During a Total Hip Replacement chronicles his journey from diagnosis through the operation and recovery.
Connect with him at www.johnharbour.com/contact for all social media channels and email.