It was more than fifteen years ago that I first visited San Francisco. At that point in my life, I had already long realized my affinity for soup. There seemed to be no soup that I didn’t absolutely love. Then, suddenly here I was in a place that not only served freshly made clam chowder everywhere, but in a bowl that was made of bread for only about a dollar more! Of course for a dollar less, you’d get free bread and a little more soup, but it was a bowl made of bread. Here, just like the song from “Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory,” you can even eat the dishes.
As I finished slurping down the soup, I ripped a big piece of it off, still crisp on the outside, but now sopped with soup on the inside. Then, half way through the bite, I found my nose inadvertently turning upward. This bread was funky, as if it tasted sour. As I looked around, still trying to discern what was happening in my mouth, I finally noticed the giant sign in front of where I had bought my soup. It read, “Fresh Sourdough Bread Bowls!” Sourdough? Can you imagine such a thing? Just when I was getting accustomed to the idea of plain yogurt and cottage cheese, here was a place that was making delicious fresh bread and then intentionally turning it sour.
The way I understand it, back when all the fortune hunters were discovering gold out “in them thar hill,” several others in those 1840’s, dug up something else out of the mines, a microorganism called lactobacillus. Technically they didn’t come from the mines, but from the environment unique to that bay area, and once you laid in a starter of flour and water, these little microorganisms started popping up and pooping gross vinegary acids into the base, while procreating and overpopulating the area. The little sickies!
I didn’t know all that back then, but even without that information, I would have told you that something funky was going on in this bread. Obviously plenty of people love the sourdough bread, it’s sold in SFO airport like “I ♥ New York” t-shirts are sold in Laguardia, but it’s just not for me.
The good news is that with America’s complete over indulgence of breads driving its demand into excessive franchising, there is hardly anywhere outside of San Francisco that takes the time to make an authentic sourdough bread anymore. Sourdoughs have been reduced to mere mild after taste. This is certainly the case at Panera. My daughter couldn’t even tell it was unique until I gave her a piece of regular bread to compare. As the soup bowl, however, I couldn’t tell at all.
Panera… can you believe all this bread? The bowl is made of bread!
Then they give you the part they cut out, and then another slice of bread on the side. Between that and the half of my daughter’s grilled cheese that I ate, it’s just too much damn bread!
See you Monday for Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (and more bread).