Monday, April 23, 2018


Sourdough by Robin Sloan (2017)

As part of my efforts to become a better cook, and my recent desire to bake kindled by The Great British Baking Show, I've been making bread at home. Robin Sloan's latest book has been popping up on my radar since it came out in the fall, but suddenly it seemed immensely important that I read it at once. Mind you, I haven't made sourdough bread, nor do I even especially like it, but when it comes down to it bread is bread, and bread is delicious.

The story is about a young woman named Lois who has just gotten a job at a robotics company where she works approximately a million hours a week, leaving her no personal life to speak of. She doesn't even have time to cook herself a meal (nor does she have the energy) so one day when she comes home to a flyer from Clement Street Soup, she orders their Double Spicy Combo of soup and homemade sourdough bread. Then she orders it again, pretty much every day. She learns that the shop is run by brothers from the Mazg culture, and when they suddenly need to leave the country due to visa problems, they leave their sourdough starter with Lois, giving her a quick lesson on bread-baking before heading out the door.

Of course, it's life-changing. Lois becomes obsessed with baking bread. And this is no ordinary sourdough starter - it sings, it reacts to music (especially Mazg music), and it seems to have a life of its own. Lois begins bringing it to work where her coworkers devour it (well, except for the guy who won't touch carbs) and the chef in the cafeteria is so impressed she starts paying Lois for it. Lois builds an oven behind her building since her kitchen oven won't accommodate enough loaves. She hears about a farmer's market and takes her bread there hoping to get a spot - and through this, she is invited to another, secret, experimental market where things begin to get really interesting.

This was one of those quirky, funny books that is slightly absurd without being ridiculous, and it left me feeling stupidly happy. And also wanting to eat approximately an entire loaf of bread. (Which, if I'm being honest, isn't that different from any other day.) I really liked Lois and wanted something better for her than the drudgery of her corporate job, so I was very happy that her newfound hobby led her to what I'm pretty sure is a better, happier, more fulfilling life filled with actual food and not the nutritive gel she and her coworkers sometimes ate at work. I also like that she joined a group called the Lois Club, which is a club for people named Lois to get together and socialize and it's a thing that actually exists. How silly and charming is that?

Sourdough was funny and delightful and surprising and filled with carbs. Delicious, delicious carbs. I've not read the book that first made Robin Sloan so well-known - Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - but I'm pretty sure I will now.

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