Pete lives in our refrigerator. Pete came here almost 20 years ago, but I'm sure he's much older than that. As a newlywed, and new to the neighborhood, I frequently saw an elderly neighbor walking her dogs past our house, so introduced myself. She lived in the house down the street with a wonderful garden. Her husband did the gardening, she did the cooking, and although now long retired, used to run a local catering business. We became good friends. She could see me out in my garden from her kitchen window, and when I'd come in for a break and the phone would ring, I could bet it would be Mae.
But I was talking about Pete, wasn't I? As a newlywed, my husband used to reminisce about the wonderful sourdough waffles his grandma used to make, asking if maybe I could learn to make them. His grandma was long gone, and his mom didn't bother with sourdough anymore either. But I happened to mention it one day while over visiting with Mae. She pulled out her jar of starter out of her refrigerator then and there, filled up a pint jar, and gave it to me along with instructions and a couple of recipes (I've also found Adventures in Sourdough Cooking & Baking, by Charles Wilford, a great resource for additional recipes). I have no idea how long she'd kept that starter going, but I'm betting it was decades. She also told me that, since the starter needs to be cared for and fed regularly, I should also give it a name just like any other house pet.
And so, Sourdough Pete came to live with us. What got me to thinking about all this, however, was that last night I realized I have another culture living here now that needs to be fed and cared for. There's a gallon jug of apple cider fermenting away on my kitchen counter, destined for my vinegar jar up in the cupboard. And it's the mother of vinegar I got last fall that will make it happen. I've heard about the folklore saying to name your sourdough starter, but never anything about vinegar mother. But I figure it's the same principle, and I certainly don't want to discriminate. So I've decided to name my vinegar mother Jolene, and hope she'll have a long and happy life here with us too.