Since the pandemic started a year ago, I’ve developed many thoughts and opinions about things that I hardly ever thought or had opinions about before. Sourdough bread is one of these things.
Before covid, I didn’t think much about sourdough. I knew it was a type of bread, usually white, typically sold in specialized bakeries (as opposed to grocery stores). I rarely bought bakery bread to eat at home but when I did, I would occasionally buy a loaf of sourdough. Once I got that bread home, I would slice it and toast it and make sandwiches with it, or whatever. I gave little thought, if any, to how “sour” the sourdough actually tasted, or to where that sour taste came from.
Then the pandemic happened and the world became obsessed with sourdough bread-baking. I tried baking my own bread once or twice and didn’t care for it. But in my effort to avoid crowded grocery stores, I did start eating a lot more bread from bakeries.
I began ordering my food from an online delivery service, and each delivery included a loaf of bread from one of several local bakeries. More often than not, the bread was described as “sourdough”. But also more often than not, the self-described sourdough bread did not taste very sour.
The more I noticed this lack of sourness in my bread, the more I craved it. And when I did stumble upon a truly sour sourdough — like the bread baked by my neighbor, Chris Green — my taste buds practically exploded with joy.
It’s weird what pandemics do to people. But anyway.
Sourdough Bread From Meat the Mother
Yesterday I was invited to a media launch for Meat the Mother, an artisanal food company started during lockdown by Joburg designer/bread-baker Maryke Burger.
I rarely attend media launches anymore. But the moment I opened Meat the Mother’s Instagram account and saw Maryke’s bread, I knew I would attend this one. I could taste that sourdough right through the screen.
Maryke is a highly trained baker and completed a special sourdough course several years ago in New York. Meat the Mother sells high-quality local meat (including incredible biltong), artisanal sourdough, and a bunch of other delicious foods, all produced in South Africa. The “meat” in the name refers to meat, as in the food (obviously). “Mother” refers to both Maryke herself (she has two sons) and to Maryke’s sourdough starter, which gives birth to these beautiful, sour sourdoughs every day.
I explained my pandemic sourdough opinions to Maryke and asked what she thought about them. She explained, quite simply, that it takes time to make sourdough taste sour. That mama sourdough starter needs time to work her magic, and not all bakeries have enough time to devote to this process.
Each attendee at the media launch (there were only five of us, which was really cool) received a loaf of sourdough and a block of cultured butter, which Maryke sources from a dairy farmer in the Western Cape. I had never heard of cultured butter before, but here is how it’s described on the Meat the Mother website: “Cultured dairy has been fermented. When making cultured butter, it’s an extra step before churning. The cream needs to become acidic and this is achieved through the addition of cultures.”
I’m not sure exactly what that means. But I don’t need to understand the butter-culturing process to tell you, with absolute confidence, that Meat the Mother sells the most delicious bread and butter you will ever taste.
If this pandemic has also given you new thoughts and opinions about sourdough bread and butter (or biltong, or chicken breasts, or honey or vinegar), I recommend you Meat the Mother. Her products aren’t cheap, as you may have guessed, but they are worth it. And life is too short to eat bland sourdough.
Meat the Mother hosted me as part of a media event. Opinions expressed are mine.