I remember how horrified we were at the sour, ashy-grey bread she gave her family to eat. She mixed her dough, we discovered, in an old tin peck-measure that Krajiek had used about the barn. When she took the paste out to bake it, she left smears of dough sticking to the sides of the measure, put the measure on the shelf behind the stove, and let this residue ferment. The next time she made bread, she scraped this sour stuff down into the fresh dough to serve as yeast.
From My Antonia by Willa Cather
I feel the need to reassure you that although my sourdough bread is homely, it’s super delicious! I wonder if Jim and his family ever ate the bread Antonia’s family baked? Perhaps taste wasn’t the problem? Maybe their expectations of what good bread should be were not met by this bread? I’m curious as to whether or not Antonia’s family brought their original sourdough from their country with them, as they did the utterly foreign dried mushrooms (the other random bit of food lore that fascinated me in this novel). The method that this passage describes is the way that bread bowls were originally used. I’m lucky enough to have a real bread bowl but I just don’t bake bread often enough to use it this way.
Please know that if you bake with sourdough, it doesn’t have to cause horror in your guests! It’s delicious and good for you!