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June 9, 2016
The History of Dough… Traditions and Customs

Dough… the basis of so many types of bread! The list is endless. I thought it might be interesting to look at its history. When it was first made… how… and the way it transformed into what it is today.

So let’s begin on our journey!

Prehistoric man lived mainly by hunting and foraging. The first archeological findings showed that people began using flour in their diet 30.000 years ago!

In that time, apart from hunting wild animals, they ate grains, seeds and fruit that were collected in nature…

At some point, the grains of wild wheat that were collected, were ground down between two stones. Some water was added and the first dough was created! It was then cooked over hot stones.

These were the first “breads” made and didn’t look a thing like the product we call bread today. It was closer to what we call phyllo, a thin sheet of dough or like pizza dough. Actually pizza dough is one of the first types of dough. The only difference was that of course, there was no yeast added to the dough.

 

 

These early creations came about by “mistake” and “carelessness”. It took many, many years…. close to 20.000 years before people were able to “tame” the first wild wheat. They then began to cultivate it and make food out of it.

Now, I’m sure some of you are asking me… “So Aki, why didn’t they just carry on hunting and eating wild animals instead of making bread which is not so healthy in a diet?” The answer is that in this way, they were able to feed more people and organize better social structures that are more similar to those of the present day.

A little later they discovered yeast and took the dough to a whole new level! Similar to the bread we make today.

Civilizations such as Asia and America were able to “tame” other types of grains such as rice (Asia) and corn (America) and began making their own foods, such as tortillas in Mexico.

In this way, dough, which fed so many people for so many centuries… took on mythical, almost godly proportions in those civilizations…

What do I mean? Let me explain…

Look at all of the transitions a plant goes through to become our basic food…

In order to obtain wheat, we have to cut it… meaning that we “kill” the plant. This is the first transition.

 

Then, we take the “fruit” or seed of the plant, which has the potential to be “reborn” and create a new plant. And what do we do with it? We grind it down. We “kill” it a second time… taking away its potential to be “reborn” again.

After that we add water and yeast and bring it back to life! The flour becomes lively again… it rises and heats up….

The next step is to “kill” it yet again.. in the oven, where it bakes in very high temperatures. This time it has not only made a huge transition it has actually transformed… from a soft dough to a hard bread with structure!

It’s “death” actually gives life to the people that eat it!!

 

All of these transitions, from “life” to “death” and back again… especially in ancient times when people didn’t know any better and were full of different beliefs and fears… they gave bread and dough more generally an almost “Holy” dimension…

While growing up, it was almost unthinkable for me to throw away any piece of bread I didn’t eat. Our parents taught us this way of thinking.

Wheat and dough were connected to Holy Communion, holidays (sweet breads, holiday wreaths) and to all different types of Ceremonies… from weddings, where they serve wedding cake…. to funerals, where they serve rusks in many countries.

Even when it came to making sourdough, it was said that the bread used to make it should contain basil that was used to sanctify and bless the water during “Theofania”.

So many years later, most of these beliefs have faded but some are still with us even if we may have forgotten where they came from…

The process of making dough was not something simply done. It took all day and the whole family was involved so that the knowledge and love for this process was passed down from one generation to the next.

 

So since the oven was turned on to bake the dough…. people would quickly whip up a pie to have for lunch!

Pies with thick or thin phyllo dough are made all over the world. In many countries they were the perfect solution to feed a whole family with a minimum amount of money. All that needed to be done was make the dough, roll it out and fill it with anything that was available in the house or garden.

The dough for pies were made with various other ingredients apart from water and flour; and the phyllo was rolled out thin or thick according to the ingredients in the filling and of course the dexterity of the housewife!

Nowadays, the time women or families in general have for cooking is limited.. and the tradition for making these types of pies has been, for the most part, passed down to the companies that manufacture these types of goods. This tradition carries a certain weight to it, since we are not talking about a simple consumer good. It is an edible product that is brought in to each home to feed us… so choose carefully!

I hope you enjoyed this journey in to the past. I hope you found it interesting and informative…. since more are on the way!

 

 

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