Does your bread sing when it’s cooking and smell like bananas and maybe have a magical history and a mind of its own? Oh, well the bread in Sourdough by Robin Sloan does all of that, and while this isn’t the most plot-driven book I’ve ever read, it was definitely interesting. Food meets science when Lois, a computer programmer, falls into the world of artisan farmers markets in San Francisco and you’ll never believe how it ends.
Lois moves to San Francisco and falls quickly into the solitary life of a computer programmer. She lives alone, works hard at the office, subsists on take-out food, etc. She’s a huge fan of a double spicy soup and bread offered by a place just around the block from her, and she becomes a regular customers. We’re talking a REGULAR–like every day. Lois quickly becomes their “number one eater” and when the two brothers who run this make-shift restaurant have to leave the country, they give Lois a gift: their sourdough starter. It’s been in their family for ages and it must be cared for very specifically. So Lois learns how to make bread with is: building her own brick oven in the background, reading tons of food, feeding the starter and playing it music, etc. Soon, her bread is gaining some fame amongst her friends and she tries to get a spot in a San Fran farmer’s market. This leads her down the path of the Marrow Fair, but who is Mr. Marrow? How far can science take food before someone gets hurt?
This book wasn’t the most exciting book I’ve ever read, plot wise, but the end is definitely a huge pick up in the pace! However, I just loved the way that Sloan talked about baking and science and everyday life. I also enjoyed the little Lois Club that exists in the world of the book and the emails from Beo, one of the brothers. Email correspondence can be difficult for books, but because Sloan is able to convey Lois’ responses without having to give them to us, we can really enjoy Beo’s emails. This book is short, like 250 pages, so it’s not too offensive that the plot is slow for so long, but it’s an absolute fascinating book, especially if you love food and robots!