The Homestead Reference Library: Alaska Sourdough

By , February 20, 2013

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about our homestead reference library. In honor of our sourdough starter’s 21st anniversary today, It’a time to profile one of our most revered resources, Ruth Allman’s Alaska Sourdoughd (check your local independent bookstore).

I’ve mentioned the book in an older post.This chatty, meandering, homely, yet wonderfully informative cookbook had been my mother’s guide in the care and use of sourdough through the years she raised it in our home. My parents gave us our own copy back in the early ’90s, and it has been our primary guide to all things sourdough ever since. In fact, I probably used a recipe from this book to start our own sourdough in the first place.

Ruth Allman, Alaska Sourdough

Our copy of Ruth Allman’s book, our guide since 1991 (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Alaska Sourdough is hand lettered, which accentuates its character. Reading it is like sitting at your grandmother’s kitchen table, listening to her spin stories from her past, including every instruction, story, reminiscence, aside, joke, and admonition.

Additional associations increased the book’s value to us over the years. Ms. Allman, the daughter of Alaska’s Judge Wickersham, used to play hostess to tourists who came to view the Wickersham home, an impressive Gold Rush era residence perched on Chicken Ridge above Alaska’s capital, Juneau. That tradition has been carried on by a number of wonderful grandmotherly-type women since Ruth’s passing. When we lived in Juneau, I fell into the habit of taking visiting friends and family up there in the summers. Each visit included a tour of the house (as much of the old place as was safe to enter anymore) a history talk, and tea in the grand dining room, featuring fresh-baked sourdough goodies. Most times, we each received a printed recipe for whatever treat they served. Juneau offers many delights, but I can think of few more congenial than a visit to the Wickersham home.

Unfortunately, its homespun presentation makes it a difficult cookbook, as it has no index. We’ve recently solved that problem by writing out our own index to slip inside the back cover. Now we can locate our favorite recipes quickly without needing to page through the prose each time.

On this 21st anniversary, you can bet we’ll be eating something made of sourdough, and the recipe will come from Ruth Allman’s trusty book.

3 Responses to “The Homestead Reference Library: Alaska Sourdough”

  1. Brian says:

    I bought that book on a trip to Alaska in 2001. It is a great resource and I have learned a lot from it. Besides that, it is fun to read thanks to the homey anecdotes. I’m looking forward to seeing your take on some sourdough recipes!

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Brian, no doubt I’ll be adding more sourdough recipes soon, after I wander on to other topics for a while. In the meantime, search “sourdough” on the blog for the recipes I’ve already posted. Particularly, I recommend the gingerbread!

  3. Jamaya says:

    Thanks for posting! Will find a copy!

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