Cher Junior: My French Offspring

I left our first Renaissance Women workshop with new offspring. As if I need another, though this one is less maintenance than my current brood.

My Renaissance sisters and I have adopted a sourdough starter from France. She came to us via our fellow Renaissancer, Tessa, who acquired her from a baker named Vincent (pronounced Vahgn-sahgn) while working on his farm in France. Tessa smuggled her into Canada, where she lives happily in Tessa’s fridge. I have named her Cher after the French region from where (I’m guessing) she came.

Sourdough starter is a spongy yeast preparation for making sourdough bread. It is created by mixing water and flour, then adding natural yeast like organic grape must. Making a starter from scratch is tricky, so starters are often shared among friends, and can travel as far and wide as a viral video (Double Rainbow anyone?). Vincent adopted Cher from a baker he knew 20 years ago, and has shared it with as many people.

Tessa cares for Cher as any responsible guardian should. She feeds Cher at least every two weeks. She cleans Cher’s jar when it gets really grungy (emphasis on really). When Tessa goes on holiday, she leaves Cher with her sister. When Tessa told us we will each leave the bread-making workshop with a little piece of Cher to care for ourselves, I was a little anxious.

“I don’t know if I’m ready for this,” I heard Katie say next to me.

Tessa showed us how to feed our starter with flour and water, to increase its size so that we have some for baking now and some for baking later. As she divided Cher for each of us to take home, we ate a sample of her fresh sourdough bread. A heavenly taste of France (with butter on top).

We left carrying our baby sourdough starters in Mason jars, like junior-high sex-ed students assigned to keep a raw egg from breaking. If you are committed enough to keep your sourdough starter alive for a year, you are ready to raise children. If you are able to bake great-tasting bread from that starter, your children will self-actualize.

I forget to water the only indoor plant in our house, so I’m nervous about Cher Junior’s prospects. My own children are surviving so far; I’ve never left them for two weeks without food. But like an early morning alarm clock, the kids send a clear signal when it’s time to eat. Cher is shy about making herself known. I looked in the fridge this morning and already she’s been pushed back a row behind the marmalade and pesto.

I hope I can preserve Cher’s legacy and, like Tessa, bake amazing bread. Tessa assured us starters are forgiving. There is no wrong way as long as you pay attention. They take time to cultivate, and to bake good bread with them takes time too. Just like raising kids.


  1. All the best!
    I was given an Amish sourdough starter last summer. Sits on your counter and you just keep feeding it, as well. After the first batch of yummy bread, I somehow killed the starter 😦
    Have fun with it 🙂 Sounds like a super class and group.

    1. Thanks Charity.

      We had the option of letting it sit on the counter and feeding it every day. There is no way I would remember to feed it every day so I opted for the slightly more manageable every two weeks. We’ll see if I do any better.


  2. Sounds like fun! I’d be a terrible guardian. I have to use an Outlook calendar reminder to remember the recycling every two weeks. Maybe a reminder would give Cher a voice?

    1. A reminder is a good idea. It came down to the wire (nearly two weeks to the minute!) before I fed Cher and made some bread. The bread turned out okay considering I didn’t follow the instructions properly. Actually, the bread is delicious. Tessa didn’t lie: it’s forgiving work.

      But yes, a reminder would have relieved me of two weeks of daily guilty. At least I’d only feel guilty on the day of the reminder.

      Bon appetit!


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