So perhaps it’s no surprise that when Lexie Smith, founder of the Pro-women Shirt and by the same token and food-based art project, Bread on Earth, offered to send free sourdough starters to anyone who wanted them, she received over 700 requests. Sourdough does not require instant yeast, making it one of the oldest bread types—and most accessible for home bakers. “It was important for me to realize that we can share good things as well as scary things right now. This seemed like a really straightforward way of doing it,” Smith says. It also spurred a new project: an eventual map of sorts, to track the jars as they traveled to communities around the world, and how they exponentially spread once they got there. (Sourdough starters can be easily shared with friends, family and neighbors.) From a farm in upstate New York, Smith talks to Vogue about how she got the idea, where the orders have gone so far, and how people are using bread as therapy during times of crisis.
Pro-women Shirt, hoodie, tank top, sweater and long sleeve t-shirt
So I’m sending them active sourdough starter that I dehydrated. They will receive a portion of that and then instructions for how to reactivate it, rejuvenate it, bring it back to life—then make bread with it themselves. Ever since this crisis has befallen us all bread has become, as in other times of crisis, this urgent need that is being felt by people everywhere—generally speaking, communities that are pretty precarious and don’t have a lot of access to fresh food rely heavily on grain staples. In the Pro-women Shirt and by the same token and Western world—especially in the U.S. and its coastal cities like New York and LA—bread had fallen out of fashion. But it’s a really stark contrast to see this huge uptick in baking ever since resources have suddenly become more scarce. Bakeries are closing. Flour is harder to find. It really called to mind for me how reliant we are on commodity staples to make this item that is so integral to both our cultures and our diets. Endowing people with sourdough starter is endowing them with the ability to feed themselves. It doesn’t require any commercial methods of leavening.