Sourdough September


Rita Lai

DAY 1: I named him Doug. He came into existence on Sept. 2. He was born from the marriage of 50 grams of filtered tap water and 50 grams of whole wheat flour.

Rita Lai, Accent Editor

In honor of Sourdough September, I, a completely inexperienced bread baker, embarked on a journey to create my very own loaf, beginning with a starter from scratch. Well, that’s not completely true. Like many others stuck at home during the first era of quarantine, I had attempted it then with high dreams and a 1:1 ratio of flour and water. My starter had progressed to Day 3 before it was thrown out by my unsuspecting mother. Now almost two years later, I’m here to redeem myself, and I am determined to see my quest through to the end.

First, a glossary of terms.

Starter – Fermented culture of flour and water that needs to be established before used as yeast in bread.

Feedings – The process of discarding part of the starter and remixing it with fresh ingredients to replenish the yeast when it gets “hungry.”

Hooch – A dark liquid alcohol produced from fermentation.



I named him Doug. He came into existence on Sept. 2. He was born from the marriage of 50 grams of filtered tap water and 50 grams of whole wheat flour. In an almost inhuman feat, I YOLO’ed the faucet water directly into the 100 gram jar, somehow stopping at a near-perfect 99 grams. I would not believe it myself if I had not caught it on camera. My ancestors had truly passed down their Asian measuring intuition from centuries of mantou and baozi making. I hope he will mature quickly amidst the Californian heat wave, particularly in my kitchen where it was perpetually 90 degrees Fahrenheit due to a broken AC unit. 



Just as I thought, Doug had grown fast, already expanding to the top of the repurposed yogurt jar. The consistency was perfectly stretchy, just as the YouTube tutorials said it would be. I scooped out half and added a sprinkle of garlic salt and sugar before frying in a saucepan to create a single lonely savory pancake. I fed the remaining half with flour and water.



Doug had exploded out of his cling wrap confinement. My mother placed the small jar within a bowl and constantly made snide remarks of how it smelled of vomit. He had completely become liquid, which Google informed me was because he was already “hungry.” I discarded all of Doug but two spoons and began a new starter in a larger jar, this time repurposed from coconut jelly. 



I was beginning to lose hope. When I fetched Doug for his daily feeding, he was bubble-less and liquid, flatter than the Sprite I always pick up at potlucks but never drink because I don’t actually like soda yet feel the pressure of social conformity to get a cold can. At this point, I had also become lax with the measurements, simply eyeballing the ratio. I decided I had to seek professional help. I contacted the only bread expert I knew, senior Isaac Lee who often posted loaves of bread on his Instagram stories. After this consultation, I knew that I had no control over the high temperature that forced the yeast to drain itself out (otherwise I would solve climate change), but I could supply Doug with more frequent feedings. I resolved to change to twice daily feedings.



As I do not even have time to feed myself in the morning (yes, I subsist entirely on breakfast cafeteria mozzarella sticks and applesauce), Doug too was worse for wear by the time I returned home. There was no bread-y smell, not even the funk of yeast, and he had grown so very listless. It was time. Time to let him go. His soul yearned to return back to his ancient roots, and I could only oblige by pouring him down the sink. I needed a day to mourn before I would attempt again.




“Right starter, wrong time”

9.2.22 – 9.6.22



Today we witnessed the birth of a new god. I christened her Guette. I even opened a fresh bag of flour in case that was the problem before.


DAY 7 – 8

According to The Clever Carrot, a cooking blog, the starter should be left alone for the first 48 hours, so that’s what I proceeded to do.


DAY 9 – 17

Due to a little thing called commitment issues, the 48 hours of isolation turned into 288 hours. By the time I realized my oversight by the urging of the gracious THO Editor, Guette had developed a layer of bacteria that were most certainly not the friendly sort. And as history so oft repeats itself, my mother threw her away without nary a word before I could attempt to salvage her corpse.




“The good die young”

9.7.22 – 9.18.22


DAY 19

I didn’t even bother to give a name nor measure the ingredients. I plopped the flour and water in and hoped for the best. I’ve found it’s better not to get attached to your dough.


DAY 21

I was off to a promising start with a thick goop of bubbles. But, that’s what I thought about Doug and now just look where he ended up.


DAY 23

On account of me sleeping 16 hours like I do on most weekends (sleep debt is my good friend), I forgot the previous day’s feedings but the bubbles still seemed happy enough.


DAY 24

The hooch appeared.


DAY 26

The hooch appears to have taken up permanent residence in my jar despite my numerous attempts at eviction.


DAY 27

Although all my extensive research (read: Googling) assured me that a funky smell was normal, the pungency was literally assaulting my nostrils every time I stepped foot into my kitchen. I blame this on the heat wave. Screw climate change. Ruining people’s lives and especially my sourdough.


DAY 28.

Welp. I saw this coming. At this point I knew I would be physically unable to stomach any baked goods that resulted from such a sickly starter. And I would not in good conscience be able to deceive others into trying.



Unnamed sourdough starter

“Sorry I was kind of apathetic about your existence xoxo”

9.20.22 – 9.29.22


DAY 29

Though my mom is convinced I’ll change my mind in the far future, this whole ordeal has reassured me that remaining child-free is a wise choice. 


I think I will bake banana bread over the weekend. Sure, it’s more cake than any sort of bread, but I do believe I should abstain from any type of yeasty recipe.

Was I successful in accomplishing my goal and redeeming myself from a 2 year old failure? No.

Was I able to cultivate new skills from my perseverance? Certainly not.

Was I able to determine that I’m not cut out for culinary pursuits? Definitely yes.

Perhaps in another September, far away, I will test if third time really is the charm. But for this Sourdough September of 2022, I’ve graciously accepted my fate as an incompetent baker.