‘Casual gastroegyptologist’ is not the kind of qualification you’d see listed on most techie resumes, but Xbox inventor Seamus Blackley – who pitched the console concept to Bill Gates himself – has truly broken the mould and made @ClubYeast my new favourite Twitter account.
The physicist-cum-game-designer posted a thread on Twitter detailing the process behind baking with ancient ingredients, but I cannot imagine confidently eating anything that came from an ancient tomb. We should be used to hearing about weird food discoveries, but this is next level. Did I hear someone mention cursed bread?
I have to be honest here and say that I find the concept of a sourdough starter pretty gross. ‘Feeding’ a jar of bubbling bacteria like it’s some kind of gloopy pet? No thanks.
But I’m not going to yuck Blackley’s yum, because it is genuinely impressive how much patience and study goes into this particular pastime. From gaming innovation on the Xbox team to bread innovation in his kitchen, it’s quite the 180. Not to mention how good at it you’d have to be to convince a bunch of museums to loan you antiquities that are thousands of years old and from half a world away.
The inspiration for this particular endeavor was Blackley’s dissatisfaction with the taste of his previous loafs. “[S]omething was missing” he tweeted, “The fundamental flavor of wild yeast bread comes from the yeast. And our modern air has TOTALLY different microbiology than it did in antiquity!” Thus, using a specially developed, non-invasive technique, teensy ancient Egyptian bread micro-organisms were extracted from previously entombed vessels.
After doing a bit of lab analysis, Blackley and his team should be able to reverse engineer the classic Egyptian recipe. Jumping the gun a little, he used a sample to culture a batch of yeast for his own future use – a process that required a mill, an autoclave and a UV lamp. Turns out it’s not the most accessible hobby when you’re that committed to perfecting the art.
Blackley has been posting pics of his ancient bakes on Twitter since 2016, and his accurate reproductions have become so popular that he’s now posting his grains around the world to other history buff bakers.
So there you have it – in a completely wild turn of events, you too might eventually be able to sample the foodstuff of people long gone from the world, thanks to an Xbox developer’s eccentric hobby. As long as you’re not too stressed about the idea of you and your descendants being pursued by the restless spirit of a pharaoh forever, that is.