Does anyone want a starter? For Amish Friendship Bread? Anyone?
A little more than a week ago I became an unwitting party to this baking chain, having been the recipient of one of the (many upon many, I’m sure) currently circulating Ziploc bags full of fermenting something-or-other. The bag was placed in my possession by a writing buddy and frequent visitor to this very blog, so I couldn’t in good conscience turn it down. She knows what I get up to in my kitchen, and so to utter a “thanks, but no thanks,” would have gone against my very reason for being.
And so I took the bag – sucker that I am – because after all, I’m two solid months into my (all together now) bread-baking year. Accompanying the bag was a set of nicely detailed instructions in a kindly font outlining for me the daily practice of “mushing” the bag and advising me to “resist the natural urge to refrigerate.” I did my dutiful, daily mushing, adding the Day 6 cupfuls of flour and milk and so forth until today – Day 10, a.k.a. Baking Day.
But with my oven still out of commission, and in the true spirit of this bread – this starter passed around under the guise of friendship – I called a friend. Tiff allowed me and my kids to burst in on her afternoon and use her operating oven. Not only that, she actually allowed me to foist a Ziploc bag of starter on her.
I am, however, laden down with three more (count ‘em) starters, because as we know, they multiply.
Apparently, it’s like a monkey on your back (so would it more appropriately bear the name Monkey Bread?) because I’m hard pressed to dispense with these other starters. No one’s knocking down my door for their due portion of my cupfuls of flour and milk and sugar, because they know what it means. They know that taking a bag is making a commitment, and what happens if they fall short on their part of the bargain? What if they forget to mush, or forget what day they’re on? That’s a lot of pressure. Isn’t that an awful lot to ask of a friend?
Even my mother-in-law turned down a starter, and she fits precisely the Amish Friendship Bread demographic. I mean, she plays bridge and owns an RV, for crying out loud.
I’ve decided this experience is really a bit of a sociological study of the workings of friendship: (1) A good friend thinks you worthy enough of this responsibility by bestowing upon you a bag of the fermenting yeast, flour, milk & sugar. (2) Then more good friends willingly take on the responsibility, the starter progeny, out of a friendly obligation, and because they would hate to hurt your feelings. (3) Family members who really don’t want to get involved are just that – family, not friends. They don’t give a hoot if they hurt your feelings by declining a starter.
I suppose the concept is a nice one, harking back to days when women had the time and wherewithal to bake a loaf for a neighbor, for a friend who had just given birth. And the idea of putting a little of yourself into something and passing it along is certainly worthwhile.
And by calling on Tiff to use her oven, I one-upped that ask-a-neighbor-for-a-cuppa-flour tradition. It was good to have a friendly face around when the bread didn’t rise exactly, when it fell apart upon being sliced, and when we decided it was more coffee cake-ish than quick bread-like. But as neither of us had had it before, it didn’t matter. It couldn’t have been more suitable to share a slice in the sunshine with a friend (oh, yeah, I was done with the mushing stuff yesterday – no more mushy-mush! Promise).