How the Arabs Bake their Bread

by Unknown

The wandering Arabs subsist almost entirely upon bread, wild herbs, and milk. It is rather strange that they should eat so much bread, because they never remain sufficiently long in one place to sow wheat and reap the harvest from it. They are compelled to buy all their corn from the people who live in towns, and have cultivated fields. When these townsmen and villagers have gathered in their harvests, the Arabs of the desert draw near their habitations, and send messengers to buy up corn for the tribe, and perhaps also to sell the 'flocks' of wool which they have shorn from their sheep.

An Arab Bakery.

An Arab Bakery.

 

Having obtained their supplies of corn, the Arabs return to the deserts or the open pasture-lands. They always carry with them little hand-mills, and when bread is to be made, it is the women's duty to grind the corn. The hand-mills are two stones, the shape of large, thick cakes, one of which lies upon the top of the other. The stones are about eighteen inches in diameter, and there is a hole through the centre of the upper one. A wooden peg, which is stuck upright in a small hole in the lower stone, projects into the larger hole of the stone above, and serves to keep it in its proper place. A smaller peg, inserted near the edge of the upper stone, forms a handle by means of which the whole stone may be turned round upon the top of the lower stone, and in this way the faces of the stones are made to grind against each other. The Arab woman places the mill upon a cloth spread upon the ground, and taking a few handfuls of corn she pours them into the hole in the centre of the upper stone, and begins to turn the mill. The grain falls through the hole, and passes between the two stones, where it is ground into flour, which flows out all round the mill, and is caught in the cloth.

When sufficient flour has been ground, the woman gathers it together, places it in a wooden bowl, adds a little water, and kneads it. No yeast is put to it, and the dough is of that kind which we call unleavened. It does not 'rise,' or swell, after it is kneaded, and the bread is not full of little holes, as our yeast-made bread is.

The dough is made into round balls, each of which is then rolled out into a thin cake. The oven is nothing but an iron plate, slightly raised in the centre, which is placed over a fire. The cakes are laid upon this plate, and are baked in a few minutes.

This is the manner of baking bread which is adopted by those tribes which are always moving from place to place. There are other tribes which change their encampment at longer intervals, and are often in one place for several weeks. Many of these bake their bread in a different way. They make an oven in the ground by digging a hole about three feet deep, making it wide at the bottom and narrow at the top, and they plaster the inside with mud. Having done this, they light a fire in the hole, and when it is thoroughly heated, they press small but thick cakes of dough against the sides, and hold them there for a few minutes until they are baked. These cakes, like those baked on the iron plate, are eaten hot.