Since publishing, Xinyi Lim has received a large number of requests and is no longer taking orders at this stage. She says this doesn't mean the movement is over. "My hope is to encourage and empower people to make their own sourdough, share it with others and in so doing, continue the spread. Although I've reached my capacity, the project is still continuing under Bread on Earth, which is sending sourdough around the world (not just across the US) with the help of volunteers like myself." Find out more below.
Baking bread has become the isolation hobby du jour, with oven-fresh loaves filling in for holiday snaps and restaurant meals in our social-media feeds. Sourdough in particular has become the bread of choice, and obtaining and feeding starters a constant conversation starter on Zoom. If nurturing your own starter – the culture used in place of yeast in sourdough – is a little beyond your remit, Sydney-born, New York-based, Sydney-stranded chef Xinyi Lim has your back. The chef is mailing sachets of dried sourdough starter across the country.
Lim flew back to Australia for her sister’s wedding and, prevented from returning to New York by the international travel ban, ended up baking a lot. She is working in collaboration with Bread on Earth – a New York art project that sends sourdough culture across the US, mapping where it goes – for dealing with her leftover starter.
Lim’s Australian version of the project – wryly titled Start the Spread – is part-baking, part-art project and aims to forge connections in a time of social distancing. Each package contains a five-gram sachet of air-dried sourdough starter and a booklet from Lim explaining how to activate your starter and how to continue feeding it. The instructions also include some “personal musings”, which Lim insists you’re free to ignore.
The original starter was picked up from Annandale woodfire bakery Cherry Moon, but Lim tells Broadsheet that “after a few feedings it becomes its own thing, so the starter people get becomes their own and unique to their environment”.
What began as a small project for friends and family quickly grew into something more. When Broadsheet speaks to Lim, she says she’s had 1000 requests for starter, and she’s still operating the project single-handedly.
Lim has a theory on why this simple project is so popular. “This speaks to this need that we have right now to find different ways of connecting and gathering,” she says. “I think this is a clear indication that there is still a really strong need for that, and it’s still in our DNA. In this time of physical distancing, it’s a really good way for people to find a community.”
If you’re interested in ordering your own sourdough starter, email your name and address to email@example.com. The large number of orders are currently causing delays, but Lim’s priority remains to continue the spread.