How the Arabs Bake their Bread
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.
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.