*note from the author: after weeks of studying and baking various historically breads for a World History project, I have been talking nonstop about bread and its evolution. Because I was unable to get through one conversation without mentioning bread, my mom kindly suggested I funnel this knowledge into a blog (this was likely after she asked what I thought of a picture, and I subsequently gave her the history of flour grind techniques… I may have a problem).
Neolithic man didn’t really ask a lot from his food. After living through the Stone Age, he was probably just happy to have cooked meat. So it’s not all that surprising that, after years of eating porridge made out of water and flour, when someone decided throw the tasteless paste over a fire the whole world went nuts for it. Modern man, on the other hand, is pretty demanding of his food. Most of us wouldn’t be able to stomach that first stiff, tasteless, fire-baked loaf of bread and luckily we don’t have to. After creating beer, Egyptians discovered that fermenting things made them way more delicious, so they decided to up the ante and let bread sit in the sun before baking. Thus leavened bread as we know it today was born. That being said, Modern man still probably wouldn’t be huge fans of this first generation yeast bread. Once Louis Pasteur isolated the yeast culture in the 1860s, Modern man was way too happy to throw pre-Modern man’s generation old yeast starters and hop over to the grocery to store to buy his or her yeast, and then, once Wonderbread rolled around, to get rid of yeast all together in favor of chemical leaveners.
As history progressed, humans became way choosier about their bread than good old Neolithic man. After spending hours in front of a mortar and pestle grinding wheat, Neolithic man was perfectly content with whatever flour he got. Modern man said he wanted soft white flour, but then he turned around complaining that this flour is too unhealthy. Now he says he wants what Neolithic man had. That’s all well and dandy, but Classical post-Classical and pre-Modern man already decided that white flour was the way to go and they’re not about to go back just for Modern man (who even likes that guy?). Anyway Modern man doesn’t have time to hand grind his own flour, and he definitely wouldn’t like it if we could. Modern man can still get the same bread as pre-Modern man, which is still pretty healthy. No one actually wants Neolithic man’s bread, that guy wouldn’t know a good loaf of bread if it hit him over the head.
Neolithic Bread (if you still want to try it)
1 cup flour (preferable stone-ground)
3/4 cup water
1. Mix flour and water into a thick paste.
2. Either spread on a well greased cookie sheet, or (if you want to be historically accurate) a well greased clay or slate tile
3. Place on a grill at about 300 degrees, or hot coals of a fire
4. Bake each side until golden, and eat warm if you know what’s good for you.