You may think that the sourdough craze started in 2020 when the world was stuck at home with nothing but a bag of flour some filtered water and endless amounts of time, but oh no, you would be wrong.
Sourdough dates back to the dawn of time, when yeast was not sold in a jar or envelope at the local Publix (or HEB for all you Texans) but was just some wild bacteria flying through the air, waiting to one day be sucked into a jar of flour and water and made into a delicious sandwich.
Ok, my science may not be totally accurate here, but you get the gist.
So it just makes sense that someone thought to bring their starter along on the Oregon Trail. I mean, what else was there for them to eat? Not much, as history would prove.
That someone was an ancestor of Carl Griffith, who inherited the sourdough starter that his family brought to Oregon via the Oregon Trail in 1847 from their home in Missouri. There's really no telling how long the starter had been passed down prior to this point, but the starter is still alive and well today more than 175 years later.
To keep the edible legacy of his family alive, Griffith started an online forum in the '90s, like you do, and would send anyone some dehydrated starter if they mailed him a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
When Griffith died in 2000, devotees of the forum set up The 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Preservation Society to keep the sourdough going. Mary Buckingham took over the job of overseeing the mailbox, which in a typical winter would receive anywhere between 30 and 150 requests each week for the coveted starter.
But this winter was not a typical winter for the society. Last month, a TikTok video about the starter went viral.
Buckingham commented after the viral moment,
This week, we have well over 1,000 requests coming in. It's insane.
It seems that the world of TikTok is desperate for a taste of history. And while some members of the society say that it's time they started charging for the legendary starter, Buckingham has other thoughts, saying of the society,
It was about continuing the old pioneer tradition of giving whoever wanted it sourdough because it's food. Especially back in the day, bread was everything.
So while you can still jump on the pioneer spirit of the free starter, the organization does encourage donations so they can keep pumping out the sourdough starter that is being requested in record amounts. If you do decide to request some super old starter for yourself, expect a long wait.
In the meantime, I personally have some Historic Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020 Sourdough Starter I could sell you at a good price, I'll even throw in a free brochure of Carl Griffith's Oregon Trail recipes.
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