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Robin Sloan Whips Up Some Kitchen Fiction for His New Novel

And a major plot point hinges on Alice Waters.


The Berkeley-based
writer Robin Sloan’s delightful new novel, Sourdough (MCD, September 2017), is many things: a story about robots and magic and baking bread; a work of dystopian science fiction with a surprisingly light touch; and a meditation on what it means to labor with one’s own hands in the age of Alexa and the self-driving car.

But because the book’s central narrative focuses on a San Francisco tech-worker protagonist who hits the farmers’ market circuit after being given a sourdough starter with quasi-magical properties, Sourdough also offers unique pleasures for a food-obsessed reader: cameo, and more-than-cameo, appearances by a veritable who’s who of the Bay Area food scene. A gently satirized version of Chad Robertson, Tartine Bakery’s real-life sourdough whisperer, puts in an appearance. So does the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, a Blue Bottle proxy, Soylent (i.e., “nutritive gel”), and the vast landscape of converted hangars that house craft breweries in Alameda.

And, without giving too much away, a major plot point hinges on a character clearly based on Alice Waters, the grande dame of Cal cuisine herself. Like Waters, the character favors flowing caftans and wood-oven pizza…and isn’t to be trifled with.


Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco 

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