Yeast

A Pint A Pound, The Whole World ‘Round

We last touched our faces in February,
forty days of stress-baking feats:
the floured hands are washed
and chapped, and floured again.
Our comfy pants will stretch like
flowers from the growing earth,
and baskets full of bread warm
our hearts and hearths.

Flour and water mixed, and set
in the breeze or potato water left
overnight – these, the chance
and happenstance of leavening –
birth our starters to luck
or moldy doom. We give them names:
Beauregaurd and Armistead, wild,
archaic – we think that fusty spells
and agnomens will encourage them
to bubble and bloom.

Like Rip Van Winkle, yeast can sleep past
pestilence and plague. A baker and Xbox
maker is coaxing awake a strain last fed
to pyramid-builders on the Nile delta plain.
Found slumbering in terra cotta pots,
it’s funky, he says, and makes delicious bread.

When you’ve slept an age
through drought and epidemic doubt,
the least we can expect is a little
must. In times of trouble, if you’ve flour,
and water, a rhyme of eggs, and milk, and butter
you’ve a shortcake to be made. With a pinch
of yeast, you’ve a braided eggy loaf:
sweetbreads for the coming Spring.

Challah after Pesach, soft fruited loaves
for Easter feasts: our secluded needs
are simple – it’s all about the yeast.

Glo/NaPoWriMo Day Three asks us to open up a rhyme generator and see where it leads us. Funnily enough, I haven’t been baking during COVID-19 isolation, but I know a lot of people who have, and I’ve been following the story of the ancient Egyptian yeast on Twitter (https://twitter.com/SeamusBlackley) for a few months and it delights my cooking nerditry to no ends. Today, I share it with you.

27 thoughts on “Yeast

  1. Pingback: Day Four
  2. It looks like your post turns out to be a starter all by itself… I’ve never gathered wild yeast, but I feel I want to now!

    Lovely poem, in so many ways.

    And I’m going to click on that Egyptian yeast link now, I’m fascinated!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I know of starters generations old, and they are very much a part of the family – and my feed has been full of new starters being brought into the fold and named.

      Liked by 1 person

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