Sourdough Bread & Jungian Psychology

What force urged me and millions of others to want to bake sourdough bread?

Sourdough Bread
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Editorial Note: This article was submitted by NCP from the SciManDan Patreon Slack group.

Pandemic Baking

All the way back in late December 2019 our world was beginning to forever change. Somewhere in China, a yet unseen global enemy attacked the lungs of patient zero, and patient zero unknowingly infected countless others with his harsh new cough.

It wouldn’t be long before the world found out about a terrifying new virus that emerged from the SARS family. This virus was later named COVID-19. It would be the first in a long list of new words that humanity would soon add to their vocabulary.

One of these new terms was “Social Distancing”. In my 35-year lifetime, there has never been a pandemic-level virus with a global reach that would require such vocabulary to exist. On its surface, this should be a kudos to the ingenuity and adaptability of humans. Part of our DNA level skillset that has allowed us to outpace our cousins the Great Apes, and build global empires.

Another one of these new terms would become what is now known as “Pandemic Baking”. This term was coined after a long and continuous shortage of flour during the pandemic. (A shortage that still exists in my local markets to this day). It was surmised that people weren’t necessarily doing more baking, but rather people that didn’t bake were taking up the hobby to snuff the lulls of cabin fever.

Fact: Sourdough is like…pretty damn good.

I have long been a lover of sourdough bread. They say it’s better for you because it’s fermented. But who knows. That’s not why I eat it however; I eat sourdough because it’s freaking delicious. It must be a combination of the crunchy crust mixed with the distinct slightly sour and pungent scent of sourdough that drives its fans to devour it. It’s literally the only bread I eat now period.

  • Sourdough Bread sandwiches
  • Sourdough English Muffins
  • Sourdough Pancakes
  • Sourdough Biscuits
  • Sourdough Toast

I rarely eat anything bread-related that’s not sourdough at this point. I guess if you’re going carb-heavy, you might as well enjoy what you’re eating!

My decent into the madness

To this day, I swear, there isn’t a single thing I can think of that would correlate why I decided to start baking sourdough during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In all honesty I hadn’t even heard of the term “Pandemic Baking” yet, and I had no idea there was a flour shortage. I had personally been wanting to learn how to bake sourdough bread for quite some time. Maybe even a couple of years. It’s something I buy a lot of, and I thought I might as well learn to bake it, save money, and get fresher bread all in one swing.

So I find a YouTube video on how to make it, which later proves a bad idea, I should have just got a sourdough book. So I go to the store to acquire the right ingredients. (Unbleached flour and optionally unbleached strong flour or bread flour). This was my first realization that there was a global flour shortage. I was staring at 20ft long blank shelf where the flour used to be. Where did it all go? WTF is going on?

So I asked a store clerk “what is going on”?

He told me “Yeah, people are just baking like crazy right now, we can’t get enough flour on the trucks to stock our shelves”.

I was shocked, but it sort-of made sense. With everyone cooped up in the house, maybe people were looking for activities at home to occupy their time.

Later on, I learned that sourdough was something that people had collectively decided they were going to bake. People weren’t just baking. They were baking sourdough bread. Maybe, they were just like me, and had dreamt of baking their own sourdough for years and saw this pandemic down-time as an opportunity to sharpen their sourdough skills. But what are the odds that so many people would resort to such a specific bakery item all at once?

The Collective Unconscious: Carl Jung

This immediately scratched a part of my brain that I just couldn’t leave alone. It got me thinking about Carl Jung’s concept of the unconscious and how, according to Jung, we all have a conscious mind, an unconscious mind, and also a “collective unconscious“.

Carl Jung Collective Unconcious

In his theories, he posits that there are inherit images, thoughts, and ideas that are passed generationally down through humanity, that we all share.

From birth, in Jung’s theory, these images, thoughts, and ideas are already hardwired into ourselves. This explains a lot of human behavior; from the cheering patrons at the coliseum where gladiators bludgeoned each other to death to the excitement and exuberance felt at a live rock concert in modern times.

Collective Unconscious Sourdough?

If Jung’s theories are correct, which some psychologists dispute (including Freud), could the collective unconscious be responsible for my random desire to bake sourdough bread? Would this also explain why millions of people did the same thing? Why sourdough? Why didn’t millions of people bake a chocolate cake instead? Or better yet, why didn’t millions of people bake completely random & different things?

I’ve explored more realistic ideas, for example, that I saw an ad or a blog post about sourdough that re-sparked my desire to attempt baking sourdough, but I can’t honestly remember that happening.

And perhaps in a world where sourdough popularity is at an all-time high when people decided they were going to take-up baking, sourdough was the obvious choice.

Lessons Learned

  • Baking real sourdough is freaking hard, kudos to those of you kitchen rockstars who have mastered the craft.
  • If at first you don’t’ succeed? Cheat! (It takes a long time to build up a sourdough starter that is strong enough. While yours is gaining strength, don’t be afraid to cheat by using a teaspoon of instant yeast).
  • What else is buried down in my collective unconscious waiting to sprout when I least expect it? Maybe it’s time to do some self-analysis least undesired attributes arise from the unconscious to the conscious self.

I wish I had some stunning photos to show you of my sourdough bread, but I don’t. Every single attempt has been an absolute failure for varying reasons. I do plan to keep trying, however.

Baking sourdough is like the pinnacle of baking. Congratulations to those of you who have mastered it. You are truly a culinary badass!

Did you do any Pandemic Baking? Are you a sourdough ninja? Leave us a comment below.

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1 Comment

  1. Enjoyed that Nick, we had the same flour shortages here in the UK, not sure it was specifically sour dough but people were certainly baking a lot of bread at home.

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