Jami Fairleigh
Baking with Meryl Streep

Whenever I forget to feed Meryl Streep, she starts to stink. You could even say she goes a little boozy. A boozy floozy. I never imagined I’d have a relationship with Meryl or a relationship of any kind with something I keep in my refrigerator, but that’s the magic of these crazy times.
      Long before the rebirth of sourdough, before our Instagram feeds choked with images of glorious home-baked loaves, I’d ordered my copy of Ken Forkish’s book, Flour Water Salt Yeast. I’d poured over the descriptions, I’d read about the merits of home-ground flour, and I’d confidently begun a starter. And then another, and another. Each ended in disaster and the loaves of bread I tried to craft were bricks of doom: flat, lifeless, dead. I put away my fantasy loaves and did the sensible thing; I bought bread from the store.
      My foray into the world of baking was mirrored by my attempts at writing. Yearning to translate the stories my imagination conjured into real books, I bought a few books about creating fiction and got ready to write. That fresh document, that unsullied notebook with all those blank pages—they provided a sense of promise. Here soon, a story would be born, crafted of imagination and dreams.
      Like my baking, I soon learned that stories didn’t just happen; one could not write a novel armed with a wisp of an idea and the desire to have written a book. Sadly, I concluded that the magic of writing, that alchemy of creating something from nothing, was just not for me. I was a person who would buy my bread and buy my books.
      Then a tiny-tiny virus put the great big world on pause and suddenly, I had time. Time to worry, time to eat, and time to clean out our closets and my bookshelves. Time to reexamine my life, time to dust off old manuscripts, and time to revive story ideas that had been languishing in the recesses of my mind. I started again. I pulled out the draft of the novel I’d been working on, I revived my neglected blog, and I began a new sourdough starter and named her Meryl Streep.
      This time it worked. This time I had the secret ingredient, the magical component that had eluded me before; Time. Time to focus, time to experiment, time to dream. Now, I’ve picked the launch date for that novel, I’ve rediscovered how writing feeds creativity, and I’ve learned that when you make time for it, you can actually create something from nothing. I’ve also learned that a little of Meryl goes a long way. AQ