Leaven — even packaged, it’s alive.
(Just dormant, at present.)
Like most of us, yeast needs
- a little warmth
- some food
- and room to grow
Because I’m using dry yeast, I “proof it”:
- Sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water
- Stir in sugar
- Dance for 10 minutes
While set aside, the leaven starts “budding.” Who else in early March wouldn’t welcome a small domestic sign of Spring— aside from the annual cleaning list?
Yeast cells are bona fide (“in good faith”) fungi, one of earth’s oldest microorganisms.
I’m feeling somewhat aged, myself, by virulent infection. I long to see something rise.
And today, it does.
I make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the bubbling foam.
Unanswered health questions clamor. I knead them right into the dough.
Why this, why now?
How much longer?
When will you answer, God?
We smell leaven, see its effect, savor its taste and texture. While my dough rises, I research yeast.
In 2001, nanotechnology leader Jim Gimzewski wondered if live yeast cells might pulsate, producing detectable sound.
Using an atomic force microscope, he and assistant Andrew Pelling measured vibrations at roughly 1,000 times per second. They fixed the microscope’s delicate probe in place like a record needle, resting atop the cell’s membrane.
When they amplified the sound, ethereal notes (C-sharp to D above middle C) filled the laboratory.
Journalists have compared the subcellular tones of yeast to the eerie whistling of whales.
How like the Creator to hardwire music into eccentric locations.
In my kitchen, I lean over the bread bowl, lower my ear, hold my breath …
Today, tomorrow, and yesterday
Because yeast cells with genetic mutations make slightly different sounds, researchers hope doctors might one day be able to eavesdrop on our cells, perhaps heading off disease before symptoms arise.
Thank you, Jim Gimzewski and Andrew Pelling. Years from now, someone battling the superbug, C. diff, as I am, might experience swift intervention.
The idea raises my spirits. So does that warm, yeasty smell in my kitchen.
Thank you, ancient Egypt,
for your unearthed
blueprints of bakeries—
4,000 years old—your hearty
loaves, shaped like birds
and fish of the Nile.
Thank you, Master Leeuwenhoek,
first man to view yeast
under a DIY microscope,
and Louis Pasteur, for explaining
how yeast works, and
dear Fleischmann’s®, supplying
our great-grandparents with leaven,
and decades of recipes, passed down.
Such a simple, sensory way to join hundreds of thousands who’ve waited, and prayed, and baked, and waited some more, for hope’s leaven to work.
And thank you, “O Thou who, in the fullness of time, didst raise up our Lord …”*
“… we rise up and stand firm …”
until, at last, we too are golden.
Blessed. Broken. Passed around.
Health Update: I’m on a new 3-week round of medication. I see an Infectious Diseases specialist in one month. Thank you for your ongoing concern and prayers! By next post, I hope to report the long siege is over!
You might also like Longing: What it Wants, Where it Points
Read more about Sonocytology (the study of cell sounds) here
*A Diary of Private Prayer, John Baillie
Loaf photo, Monica Grabkowska on Unsplash