Ask a Necromancer

Ask a Necromancer: Reviving a Dead Sourdough Starter and Explaining the Death of a Pet To Your Child

In our brand-new advice column, your questions are answered by the infamous necromancer Lazaro the Wicked, drawing upon his knowledge of the dark arts, the thin line separating the dead and the living, and the special sense of perspective gained from plunging into the void and returning with great power at a great cost.

“Dear Lazaro, I left my sourdough starter on top of my fridge for several weeks without feeding it and now I think it is dead. What do I do?”

Reader, you’re in luck, because revivifying a yeast colony is actually the easiest form of necromancy there is, and I am happy to share my methods with you.

  1. Divide your starter and discard half in sacrifice. Feed what remains with approximately double its volume in fresh flour and water that is similar in temperature to living human flesh. Holy water is preferable if available to you. (ex: you have ¼ cup of starter, add about ½ cup flour and ¼ cup water).
  2. Place the starter in a clean bowl, cover it with the burial shroud of a minor saint. You may substitute with cheesecloth or plastic wrap if necessary.
  3. Take the bowl in your hands and imagine your worst enemy experiencing horrible pain. Channel this energy into the bowl, then place the bowl in a place of prominence where it can observe the comings and goings of the household.
  4. Repeat this ritual twice daily, to coincide with the rising and setting of the moon if possible, until your starter begins to exude the stench of life.
  5. If the ritual fails to revivify the starter after one week, it means the eternal soul of the colony has loosed its corporeal form. In this case, you must discard the corpse and begin again with fresh, pure flour and water to recapture the yeast-soul, which will not have wandered far.

Our family cat Caroline had to be put down this week, and I don’t know how to explain it to my daughter. Should I explain death to her, or make up a story about Caroline moving to a farm?”

Dear Reader: I know better than anyone how perplexing and beguiling the question of death can be to the mortal mind. I have dedicated my unnaturally long life to mastering it, and if there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that there is no life without death, and even though I have traversed the veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead many times, I have emerged from this experience only more certain of the importance of the concept of impermanence.

On the other hand, I have known many great scholars and powerful rulers who have been broken by confronting their own death or the death of a loved one. There’s nothing wrong with a useful fiction, and telling her a story that enables her to come to terms with Caroline’s absence is fine, but no matter what she does, your daughter will encounter death in her life, and learning to process the concept of her own mortality is a key step in her ability to live with resilience and purpose.

However, the true answer to your question can only come from you and your relationship with your daughter. You have to be honest with yourself, and make a call about if she is ready to discuss death.

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