Bread in History
Bread has been enjoyed in many different forms, with the earliest bread dating back to the Neolithic era. Wafers, cakes, flat bread, and loaves of bread that are leavened or unleavened, all date back to ancient times. With the earliest bread dating back to the Neolithic Era, bread has much evolved with time. The bread enjoyed by earlier civilizations is far different from bread we eat today.
Many factors have influenced the evolution of bread over time. Technological advances have greatly changed the production of bread. The invention of a machine that not only sliced but also wrapped the sliced loaves of bread in 1928 by Otto Frederick Rohwedder and the Chorleywood Bread Process invented in 1961 that reduced the production time of bread by working the dough are two examples. Even with the influences of time, bread is still as important today as it was in prehistoric times.
Bread has a significance in almost every aspect of ancient and modern life. The exchange of bread by peasants in Palestine today symbolizes friendship and hospitality. Bread, in medieval Europe was used in the way we would today use a plate at the dinner table. Stale pieces of bread would serve as an absorbent dish to place the meal upon. Today, it is not uncommon for bread to be used as somewhat of a spoon to scoop food from a common dish at a Syrian meal.
The cultivation of emmer wheat to produce bread was the center of Ancient Egyptian society. The steps of cultivating emmer were quite laborious for the ancient farmers. The land was manually plowed with a wooden axe. Sometimes animals were used to aid in the process but it was usually done by hand. The grain was then spread over the freshly plowed soil and then pushed below the soil hidden from birds. When the wheat was ready, it was harvested with sickles and carried on the backs of donkeys in bundles. The grains were transported to a dry place where they could be processed and stored for future use.
Artistic remnants found in Ancient Egyptian tombs provide evidence of the processing of emmer wheat . Paintings on the walls of these tombs depict men dehusking emmer spikelets with the use of mortars and pestles. The spikelets were moistened with water to aid in the separation of the spikelets without crushing the grain. Once the spikelets had been removed the women would then separate the chaffs from the grain. Women would then spend hours on their knees milling the grains with the use of a saddle quern. The resulting wheat flour could then be mixed with water to make bread dough. Additions such as fruit, honey, butter, spices, nuts, or seeds were used to add flavor. Though, breads with these flavorful additions were not likely enjoyed by the poorer class.
Emmer, if kept in a dry place, could be stored in bins for future use. It was often stored as spikelets because the tough spikelet would protect the grain from insects. Once stored, the Egyptians would daily process the amount of wheat needed for their purposes. There is evidence that the emmer was processed frequently and possibly every day to be used in the daily meals. With this being a daily process, this laborious ordeal must have been the most dominating part of everyday life.
Excess grains were exported to surrounding nations. This proved to be very profitable even during times of Egyptian unrest. Without the sustainable income from grains, many Egyptian would have likely starved.
bread in history
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