Kristi’s Notebook: Sourdough seduces Whidbey Islanders

‘Do you agree to love, cherish, honor and forever keep a jar of sourdough starter in the refrigerator?”

Annette Barca said, “I do.”

She’s had the same jar of starter in her refrigerator since 1974.

That has kept her husband, Bob Barca, happy for their 34 years of marriage. They live on Whidbey Island, at Hummingbird Hill Garden. He is a Washington State University master gardener.

The retired college chemistry instructor also teaches sourdough cooking. He recently took his starter mix to the Granite Falls Library.

“It was fabulous,” said children’s liaison Linnea Epstein. “Twenty-two people went home with their very own tangy sourdough starter.”

Bob and Annette Barca shared sourdough carrot cake and chocolate cake that was out of this world, Epstein said.

Barca tells students about setting up a sourdough pot and making sourdough breakfast treats including pancakes, waffles, quick breads, dinner rolls and desserts.

When Barca was growing up in San Pedro, Calif., his father was a fisherman.

A fisherman who loved sourdough pancakes.

“I was also crazy about pancakes,” said Bob Barca, 67. “I read you could send to Alaska for sourdough pancake recipes.”

He got his recipe in 1970 from the University of Alaska.

He shared his culinary interests with his wife.

“She helps me,” he said. “She makes an excellent pie crust.”

They don’t use commercial yeast in their baking. Barca said it takes away from the flavor of the sourdough, so they only use flour and water.

And never reheat sourdough bread in the microwave.

It gets ruined, he said.

The expert baker isn’t a one-note cook.

“My real passion is gardening,” he said. “And USC football.”

Annette Barca volunteers for the Red Cross and teaches classes. She also does seminars for teachers who are soon to retire.

Don’t call or e-mail the couple to get some of their starter. Barca recommends folks research the Internet about starting their own mix.

Here’s a good one:

Bob Barca said in Alaska, there are starters that are more than 100 years old. Prospectors slept with their sourdough starter to keep it from freezing, he said.

“It’s quite interesting,” he said. “Amazing, really.”

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451 or

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