CHEK Upside: Sourdough bread baker and jam maker spread joy in Victoria

WatchCindy Holmes discovered her new hobby of baking sourdough as a means to cope with tragic loss. She says the process has helped her heal in a time of need.

It’s delivery day for Cindy Holmes.

“This is a freshly baked boule sourdough, just came out of the oven,” said Holmes, holding her picturesque loaf with pride.

It’s become part of her new routine in the new normal – bake sourdough bread and gift the goods to her Moss Street neighbors.

“I never thought I would be into sourdough baking the way I have become in the last few months,” said Holmes, a social work professor at the University of Victoria.

Holmes’ new pastime was the result of an unpredictable and devastating loss.

“My mom passed away at the beginning of April and right at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She died fairly suddenly, we found out she had terminal cancer in March,” Holmes said.

Grieving and isolated due to the pandemic, Holmes searched for ways to cope. After receiving a few baking tips from a friend, she found solace in sourdough.

“It’s actually been really therapeutic,” said Holmes, who gives away most of what she makes.

Holmes says baking sourdough was the healthy distraction she needed. It’s tricky, time-consuming there’s no shortage of trial and error. Also, it’s a way to pay tribute to her late mother.

“When I was growing up, she would always be making food and sharing it with others. She always shared muffins. She’d make soups and casseroles and take them to people if anyone was sick,” said Holmes.

Like her mother, Holmes decided to give away her loaves to friends, family and neighbours who needed a pick-me-up during the quarantine era.

Holmes frequently drops off loaves to her neighbor, Gail Wainman, who lives just down the road. Coincidentally, Wainman found a similar outlet to keep her spirits up during these times in making jam.

“I am coping with my COVID confinement by cooking copious amounts of jam and giving it away,” said Wainman, who’s retired and lives with her husband.

She’s given away dozens of jars to neighbors she never knew before. Flavors including tequila pepper and apricot peach.

“My husband tells everyone that I am creating community, one jar of jam at a time.”

In a time of isolation, Wainman and Holmes have turned their healing hobbies into a way of spreading joy in their community.

“It’s also been really tasty and, you know, it’s nice to share that with others,” said Holmes.

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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