Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.
Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.
When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?
I picked up this novel because I absolutely loved the author’s last offering, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. I won’t say that this book is completely different, because there are a few similarities, but don’t be expecting a clone of Penumbra if you choose to read it.
Lois Clary is a charming main character—a software engineer at a demanding company in San Francisco, she comes to realize that she needs more in her life than code and liquid meals. The beginning of this realization (the starter, if you will) is a bond with two brothers in her neighbourhood who run a food service out of their apartment—sour dough bread and spicy soup. When they run into visa problems, they move on, leaving their sourdough culture with Lois, their Number One Eater.
Anyone who has baked bread realizes that it takes skill. Lois leaps in with dedication and is soon getting more satisfaction from her bread baking than from her coding. Bread is indeed her ticket to real life and Sourdough follows her as she “rises” to meet new challenges. It made me wish that I could still eat gluten without consequences—instead I was driven to the kitchen to make gluten-free toast!