As the pandemic shutdown enters its (checks notes) second half-year, everybody’s doing what they can to stay occupied. Yoga, woodcrafts, doomscrolling, video games until your eyes bleed—the choices are endless. Still, the homely art of baking has made a serious comeback as people wary of frequent grocery runs and eyeing their dusty kitchen supplies have gone all Paul Hollywood stuffing their families full of incrementally improving loaves and cakes.
Such is the fate even of the rich and famous (and responsibly sequestered), as evidenced by Late Show host Stephen Colbert and Emmy-nominated Ozark star Laura Linney’s Tuesday remote gift swap. For Linney—preparing her wardrobe for this year’s virtual Emmys (she’s going with jammies)—it’s been all about that cake, showing off the Southern delicacy (by way of Jamaica, originally), the hummingbird cake, which apparently is a gooey mix of pineapple, banana, spices, pecans, cream cheese, “and a whole lot of sugar.” Colbert meanwhile, had an even more questionable surprise for his guest, scurrying around his recently returned-to Ed Sullivan Theater home base for the sourdough loaf he’d whipped up in Linney’s honor.
Now what’s so sketchy about a sourdough loaf, you might be asking. Apart from the witchcraft of keeping a mysterious jug of fermenting sludge in your coat closet for months, before somehow transforming it into a slightly off-tasting baked good. Well, as Colbert told the understandably dubious Linney after his skeleton crew staff eventually found his prized gift, this particular loaf (which, one recalls, he’s sending through the mail to be eaten by one of America’s most respected actors) was itself sent to him—by someone. (Colbert simply said it was from “a person,” leaving open the possibility that the stuff just appeared on his doorstep unbidden one day.) Oh, and the yeasty progenitor of what, to be fair, was a kickass-looking bread, is apparently 150 years old.
Colbert, running his hands over his precious, gave the game away by telling Linney that he’d unsuccessfully “danced with the devil” of sourdough manifestation for a few fruitless months before this “person” gifted him this sesquicentennial starter. And while Linney remained politely skeptical about eating a bread that saw entirety of the Franco-Prussian War, she’s the one planning to send a frozen sugar-mush fruit cake to New York. At least hers had a nice headshot of Colbert as a topper. Colbert also had a gift basket for Linney’s big socially distanced Emmy night, augmenting her planned pajama-wear with a pair of opulently gaudy earrings, some champagne, and a trio of creepy Laura Linney face masks, should the celebrated thespian decide to take the night off from making patiently gracious reaction shots to her computer camera. As to what goes well with 150-year-old postal bread, might we suggest some margarine, which first went on the market around that time. Bon appétit?