Sourdough by Robin Sloan is perfect blend of culinary secrets and technological experiments. Lois is a programmer who spends her endless days writing code and programming a robot arm. She resorts to drinking a Slurry (an unappealing nutritional concoction) for lunch during the day, and ordering delivery of spicy soup with delicious bread from a neighborhood hole in the wall at night. She falls into this comfortable routine and when the delivery guy tells her he and his brother, the chef, have to leave the country, she is distraught. Because she had become to them the “Number One Eater”, they are leaving her with a valuable secret…the special starter for the sourdough bread she adores, and they asked her to keep it alive. Now burdened with the task of baking the perfect loaf, Lois builds an oven and teaches herself to bake. The secret recipe they left her with is amazing and she begins selling the beautiful and tasty loaves to her company’s caterer, who encourages Lois to sell at the farmer’s market. Working at the robotics company by day and baking at night, she has little sleep, but is energized.
The popular farmer’s market does not accept her but she is welcome at the mysterious underground market where food is being improved with technology, and unique and unusual products are being developed and sold. Lois uses her engineering prowess to take on the job of programming the robotic arm to crack eggs, a challenging task, per the request of the market’s sinister leader, so the arm can assist her in the baking process. Her love of baking and feeding people who enjoy her sourdough bread is overwhelmingly fulfilling and she leaves her programming job to bake full time.
This book was charming and fun, with several chapters devoted to The Lois Club, a club Lois was a member of where she attending meetings with other Lois’s in her neighborhood. Working long hours and baking bread at night, Lois didn’t have much time to develop friendships so this group of women were her support. Loved Robin Sloan’s quirky characters, the story of Lois and the inherited sourdough recipe and enjoyed the fast pace and charm!
I’m probably not going to start baking bread any time soon, although a loaf of warm sourdough with salted butter would be delicious…but having so many friends already with my same name, I am tempted to start a Jennifer Club!
As seen on Goodreads:
Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.
Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive. Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer’s market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show.
When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?
About the Author:
Robin Sloan is the author of the novels Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough. He grew up near Detroit and now splits his time between the Bay Area and the internet.