Meet the Man Behind the World’s Only Sourdough Library


– In order to try to get as many sourdoughs as possible
identified in the world, I am on a quest for sourdough. For the moment, we host 107 starters from more or less 20 countries. And so we ended up with 17 sourdoughs from 17 bakeries in Italy, 40, 41, 42, from Hungary, the 64 was an old lady in China. It’s sourdoughs with a story
where I know the people there like, 79 is from Josie
Baker in San Francisco. 104, 106, and 107 go back
to the Klondike Gold Rush. Every library has a librarian. Well, it happens that in
this sourdough library, I’m the sourdough librarian. When an idea like a
sourdough library pops up, and you are able to do it from scratch, well, it’s my baby. That’s why I grew so much into it. With this one I have a
very special relationship, because it was the very first
sourdough starter we had. This was my very first
sourdough I saw in my life, and so I started refreshing it, and I had to bake with it. I immediately got interested by this dough that I’d never seen before. And being a baker, you
want to know more about what’s going on in there, and
then you start feeding it, and you see it bubbling, and it’s alive. It’s like a pet. In the nineties, many people
had these little Tamagotchi, with the little thing
that you had to feed. Now if you killed it, it was okay, because you could
just reset the whole thing and start all over. Well, here, not. We have living sourdoughs. They are bubbly. Every two months, we open the jars, and we feed the sourdough with their original flour, following the original recipe. And that guarantees that
they are not changing. The fact that we decided
to create this library, is first of all, to
preserve its biodiversity. If tomorrow, someone who has a sourdough that maybe he or she
inherited from their father, or grandmother, or whatever, and if he or she would stop
cultivating that sourdough, well, it’s lost. In English, we use the word “sourdough,” but in many cultures, there
is no link to sourness. The French ones, they say, “pan au levain.” The Italians, they use “lievito naturale,” which means “natural yeast.” But the most beautiful
description for a sourdough is the Spanish word, “masa madre,” which is the “mother dough.” When a daughter in the past
was going to get married, she received a piece of
the mother dough with her in order to feed her family. Sourdough is back on the map. Today, there is a revival. Many people rediscover sourdough, and that’s the beauty. Sourdough bread is so
much better for humankind than just regular bread that
is fermented with yeast. I think that every bread
has something good, but sourdough just brings
it to another level.

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13 thoughts on “Meet the Man Behind the World’s Only Sourdough Library”

  1. Carl Vanderlip says:

    I've heard that all sourdough's will change over time, wish there was more in this video about that since the claim of just "using the same recipe so it doesn't change" doesn't fit with that.

  2. Melinda says:

    My sister is a HUGE bread nerd and she LOVED THIS! so did I 😀

    (and if she had a sourdough starter, she'd send it "fo' sho'")

  3. Dysnomia says:

    Fantastic video. Very satisfying. I just spent some time in their virtual tour. Fantastic stories. This could be a mini-series on television. On a side note, I wish creators of online videos would include the details of the music they use. I find that is almost never the case. Atlas Obscura, can you tell me what music was used for this video, please?

  4. Ethan King says:

    Wouldn't the sourdough starters lose their original characteristics and yeast, since the starter is fed by the wild yeast in the air in that particular area? The yeast in the starter gained from it's original location would be replaced fairly quickly by the yeast in the library. I don't see the point.

  5. ncooty says:

    He makes it sound akin to heirloom varieties (e.g., his references to losing genetic diversity), but sourdough is merely a host. The wild bacteria and yeast that populate sourdough aren't in danger of being lost. What he has is a cool collection, but it's not analogous to Svalbard.

  6. Beatrice Lopez says:

    my favorite bread

  7. Aubergine Lover says:

    I have a 50+ year old starter from my uncle and I live in southeast asia, Borneo. You can have mine to be put in your library. I also have a dried dehydrated starter.

  8. the PiiZaMan says:


  9. Michael Posthumus says:

    What music is used in this video?

  10. Victor Herron says:

    How fascinating and wonderful! Well done, sir. As a priest of the Syrian Orthodox Christian Church, I am strongly reminded (and you may find interesting) that our ecclesial cousins of the Assyrian Church of the East have an ancient tradition with regard to the bread of the Holy Eucharist, which they call Malca, or Holy Leaven. "A small portion of this is mixed with the dough from which the bread of the Eucharist is made, and it is claimed that this Holy Leaven . . . is derived from the Apostles themselves." This small snippet is from "The Bread of the Eucharist, by Reginald Wooley, London, 1913, available in its entirety as a PDF from The Internet Archive, for anyone interested in the details. The chapter dedicated to the Assyrian tradition runs about 20 pages, most of them pertaining to ritual matters, the Apostolic Legend about 4 of them. But I'm afraid they would never give up any of their Holy Leaven to your museum, as it is considered a sacred substance, carefully protected and never to be handled outside of that sacerdotal context. Best wishes from the USA.

  11. SOUNDS says:

    I Love Watsonville Sourdough😍

  12. Bernardine L'Ermite says:

    Hi, thank you for this very interestng video ! I have a question : how can you insure the integrity of a sourdough once it has travelled away from its birth place ? Ok, you use the same flour as the one that was used to create and maintain the said sourdough. But as soon as you open the container, it will be "contaminated" by your local conditions and micro-organisms, and evolve into something else anyway… doesn't it ? My in-laws in Egypt make sourdough bread, but I doubt that if I take it from them (with some Egyptian flour to feed it) it will remain the same in my much more colder country, and totally different microbian environment…

    I have activated a dessicated sourdough bought in a supermarket, and up to now it has given me almost 20 lovely breads. But I doubt it is any longer the same bacterian mixture since I have fed it with a lot of different flours in my home. (I even have been badly sick in the winter, and I made fun of my sourdough catching my cold, lol. I know it can't, be you see what I mean). Would love to have your position about this, thanks in advance !! 🙂

  13. Corpus Mentis says:

    just new to sourdough, really happy with my first ever loaf after panicking with horrific smell for first 3 days. it mellowed out and got nice n yeasty…..I'm considering buying some online from different sources. is there a real discernible difference between starters? or a waste of money?

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