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Sourdough is less of a mystery to be solved than a joyful unfurling of its strange and inviting world, one almost like ours, but a bit more zany.
Baking has always seemed a form of magic to me. You combine ingredients that you've had sitting in the pantry all along—nothing in my hat, nothing up my sleeve—and by stirring them in the right ratio and plopping in the oven, you've turned inedible, tasteless powders into bread.
This is the realization that San Francisco engineer Lois Clarry has in Sourdough, when she inherits a mysteriously pote...
Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lo...
Number One Eater
It would have been nutritive gel for dinner, same as always, if I had not discovered stuck to my apartment's front door a paper menu advertising the newly expanded delivery service of a neighborhood restaurant.
I was just home from work and my face felt brittle from stress—this wasn't unusual—and I would not normally have been interested in anything unfamiliar. My nightly ration of Slurry waited within.
But the menu intrigued me. The words were written in a dark, confident script—actually, two scripts: each dish was described once using the alphabet I recognized and again using one I didn't, vaguely Cyrillic-seeming with a profusion of dots and curling connectors. In either case, the menu was compact: available was the Spicy Soup or a Spicy Sandwich or a Combo (double spicy), all of which, the menu explained, were vegetarian.
At the top, the restaurant's name was written in humongous, exuberant letters: CLEMENT STREET SOUP AND SOURDOUGH. At the bottom, there was a phone number and the promise of quick delivery. Clement Street was just a few blocks away. The menu charmed me, and as a result, my night, and my life, bent off on a different track.
I dialed the number and my call was answered immediately. It was a man's voice, slightly breathless. "Clement Street Soup and Sourdough! Okay to hold?"
I said yes, and music played—a song in some other language. Clement Street was a polyglot artery that pulsed with Cantonese, Burmese, Russian, Thai, and even scraps of Gaelic. This was none of those.
The voice returned. "Okay! Hello! What can I make for you?"
I ordered the double spicy.