The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Sourdough in literature

Portus's picture

Sourdough in literature

I recently had reason to look up a poem, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by Roger Service, who spent part of his working life in the Yukon in the early 1900s.  He published several volumes of poetry (maybe doggerel is a more charitable description?), one being “Songs of a Sourdough”, which earned him over $100 000.  The ultimate verse of this poem reads:

These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.

They say that the stranger was crazed with "hooch," and I'm not denying it's so.

I'm not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two —

The woman that kissed him and — pinched his poke — was the lady that's known as Lou.

I will be interested to learn from TFLers if they have come across sourdough in any other writings, aside from those relating to bread, baking and the like, that makes similar, specific and rather charming literary references to hooch, sourdough, and anything else of a similar nature.

lesbru's picture


Haven't read this, but sounds tailor-made! 

lesbru's picture

Sorry. That link doesn't seem to work, maybe because I did it on my phone.  This should do it.   The book doesn't seem to be out for a few days, so it's hot off the press.

Justanoldguy's picture

Doggerel? Maybe. But it is four lines, a quatrain as it were. Just like this:

"Here, with a loaf of bread beneath the bough

A book of verse, a flask of wine, and thou 

Beside me singing in the wilderness

Ah wilderness is paradise enow"

You gotta figure a Persian tentmaker out in the sticks was ripping into a sourdough loaf and there's hooch too if you stretch the point.

barryvabeach's picture

Portus,  actually Robert Service wrote some very good stories and poems,  maybe his best known is the Cremation of Sam McGee, though I am a big fan of his war poems, which were the basis of an album War War War by Country Joe McDonald.   Jean Deprez and the Man from Athabaska  are two great songs - though not baking related.

Portus's picture

... I am now on the lookout for Robin Sloan's book; I had not heard of him.  Regards the Rubaiyat, of course, how could I forget!  Service has some parallels with Kipling, Owen and Brooke when it comes to war poetry of that era, but of these I suspect Kipling was a "jingoist" until his son was killed in WW1.

harum's picture

Talking about the things past, there was a guy who wrote a humangous book of facts and fiction that, among many other topics, included quite a few pages on sourdough starters and bread.  Great book if read "addito salis grano"!

justkeepswimming's picture

Near the bottom of the page: "It is very evident that the principle which causes the dough to rise is of an acid nature, and it is equally evident that those persons who are dieted upon fermented bread are stronger4 in body."

"4 This remark is founded upon just notions."

I haven't noticed anything to suggest I am "stronger in body" by eating fermented bread, but maybe it just means I need to eat more of it. ?

idaveindy's picture

The comment at Feb 17 2021 - 4:06am, (johnkeats) was done solely to insert a spam link.  But the spammer took the time to do  it manually and customized it to the OP. I'm impressed enough to not flag it.

We'll see what Floyd thinks.

harum's picture

He might be right.  Long fermentation of dough, as they say in food research papers, might make the bread more digestible and nutritionally valuable (e.g., through degradation of phytic acid), which, if true, was a big deal for the poor diets of that time.