American clawhammer banjoist and songwriter Cameron DeWhitt takes a look at yeast in his new piece Leavener. The work is in response to the theme of “meals” and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.
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1 Corinthians 5:7–8
7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Recently I made the switch from commercial yeast (like, from the packet) to wild Philadelphia yeast. And boy, it’s sure made a big difference in my bread. I got my sourdough starter from my neighbors, who got theirs from a friend, so I like to think that all of our loaves and boules and baguettes are related.
I had a conversation with my good friend Jon Roberts about baking sourdough and maintaining a starter. Apparently some starters are very fragile; the yeast inside will die if they have any competition for the available sugars. He used to work at Sullivan Street bakery in Hell’s Kitchen, and when he’d try to bring home a lump of starter it would start producing acetic acid before he could use it. Once removed from its sheltered existence in one of America’s finest bakeries, it couldn’t handle the pressure of the real world, and allowed itself to be eaten up and turned to vinegar.
So, I’m proud to eat bread with the hearty and worldly yeasts of Kensington, Philadelphia. It’s yeast is like it’s people: determined to survive, willing to fight, and not deterred by a little pollution or systematic oppression. This is how the Kingdom of Heaven is spread. It’s a resilient culture, and it’s all around us, waiting to be fed.
If your culture is eating itself, and getting sour in all the wrong ways, throw it out, and start a new one. Maybe you need something a little less fragile, a little less pretentious. A culture that won’t disintegrate at the first sign of stress. Chances are, you know someone who can help get you started.
Special thanks to Christian Guerrero for mixing this song.
Cameron DeWhitt is an American clawhammer banjoist and songwriter born in Portland, Oregon. His live show is interactive, with sing-along sections, open discussions about song themes, and storytelling. He new self-titled record is available now on Bandcamp.
Cameron’s songs explore themes of love, death, marriage, judgment and forgiveness. His lyrics display a quick, profound wit, enriched throughout with weighty metaphors and literary cross-references. Through personal and biblical stories, he prompts the listener to contemplate the definition of love, the character of God, and the human struggle towards hope and redemption.
Cameron has developed a unique, melody-driven banjo style. While fluidly shifting modes and meters, he quotes popular melodies, improvises with other musicians, and makes musical jokes. His songs feature trumpet, string bass, drum set, complex vocal counterpoint and improvised solos.
Cameron lives with his wife, Rebecca, in the East Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, where he is a part of the Circle of Hope Community. He plays an Ome Jubilee banjo with a Moon bridge and a John Balch goat skin head.