The Quest for Sourdough in East Tennessee

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As most of you know, I’m from Northern California, and now live in Knoxville Tennessee. Since I’ve moved here I’ve been really bothered by the lack of quality sourdough bread. I went through all the stages of grief.

  • Denial: I’m sure it’s here, I just haven’t been to the right store yet.
  • Anger: How the hell can a town of this size not have a single loaf of good sourdough?!?! No wonder the south lost the Civil War!
  • Bargaining: I mean, if I have to go to another town, that would be ok. There has to be some in East Tennessee somewhere, right?
  • Depression: What does it matter… I may as well start buying Sara Lee bread, life sucks anyway.
  • Acceptance: I guess it only makes sense that there is a cost to getting to eat hush puppies and fried green tomatoes. Sourdough bread must be that cost…

Then on Saturday at work, I finally learned the truth. It isn’t that Knoxvillians are just evil and refuse to make me the sourdough bread of my youth. They can’t. San Francisco style sourdough bread can only be made in SF. The yeast in the air is different, and with sourdough bread, the yeast in the air will make or break your dough.

I feel more at peace now that I know what’s really going on. Thank you to my boss, Vanessa, for letting me know. SF sourdough, like the sight of the Golden Gate bridge in the fog, or large groups of leather daddies singing show tunes can only be had in San Francisco. And maybe that’s what makes those things so special….

For more info on magical sourdough, check out this article from The Science of Cooking.

  1. Liz commented on February 23rd, 2010 at 1:12 am

    i love sourdough, and i love science! What a great tidbit of knowledge, I never would have guessed that! :)

    Things like this just make the regional foods we love that much more special!

  2. Laura Hansen commented on February 23rd, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Hello Melanie,
    Sourdough bread is both my and Eric’s favorite bread. We have strict criteria for what good sourdough should taste like and how much butter to load onto a thick slice.

    I had no idea that you couldn’t make excellent sourdough in other parts of the country. Are you going to have it mailed to you? Are you setting up a foundation where people can send you sourdough bread?

  3. Moe commented on February 23rd, 2010 at 3:48 am

    I will have a slice or two for you here in Beautiful SF… I’m sure I’ll see some “leather daddies” sing show tunes soon as well. I lived in NC for 2 years and couldn’t get over the lack of so many of my favorites foods… Avocados are worth their weight in gold there… though I can’t find a decent biscuit here or a proper glass of Sweet tea… Even in this age of globalization food still defines place.

  4. Sam Lawhorn commented on March 12th, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Hey Melanie. You can buy the same kinds of yeast and lactobacillus responsible for the unique flavor of SF sourdough in a starter kit. Here’s the link:

  5. Melanie commented on March 13th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Sam, you had me at “SF Sourdough.” I love you soooo much!

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