Mild spoilers for Neal Stephenson's Anathem:

When Erasmas is quarantined on first arriving at the Convox, he says "They’d provided me with everything I needed to make bread". But how is this possible? Dried yeast is an industrial product that's surely not available in a concent, and even if it was available at the Convox (there were Saecular foodstuffs in his trailer), Erasmas wouldn't know how to use it. The avout would bake their bread the mediaeval way, using some of yesterday's dough as a starter for today's bread. You can't just leave it lying around in a trailer module in the same way as you can with flour and salt.

  • You don't need yeast to make flatbread.
    – Valorum
    Jul 21, 2014 at 11:57
  • Yeast powder often comes in sachets with instructions
    – Valorum
    Jul 21, 2014 at 11:58
  • @Richard Saecular yeast powder would have its instructions in Kinagrams, which Erasmas couldn't read.
    – Mike Scott
    Jul 21, 2014 at 15:35
  • I haven't read the book recently, but if he had a few days he could start a new sourdough culture using whatever wild yeast wafted in through the window.
    – Beta
    Jul 21, 2014 at 16:23

2 Answers 2


From Neil Stephenson's Anathem, Part 9, Imbrase:

Half the kitchen was oc­cu­pied by bot­tled water, pal­letized and stacked. The cup­boards had been stocked with an odd mix­ture of ex­tra­muros gro­ceries and fresh pro­duce from the tan­gles and ar­bore­tums of Tre­de­garh.

It's not specifically addressed, but if there was fresh produce, there's no reason there couldn't be some starter dough.


It doesn't seem like he spends enough time to make a yeast bread....They tend to have a long proofing/rising cycle.

That being said, there is no reason that they would be restricted to "mediaeval" bread making: remember, despite their monastic lives, they're anything but uneducated, and the process of making "dried yeast" is actually quite simple. Generally you just use a potato or grain mash as as growth media, and when it's all nicely yeasted out, you spread it flat and dry it. Crumble it up, and voila, dry yeast.

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