Baking Neolithic Flatbread
Connecting with Humanity's Daily Grind—Pt. 2
In last week’s dispatch, I told the story of travelling to Çatalhöyük, in central Turkey, to see how the residents of the world’s largest proto-city ground their grain in 7,200 BCE. Then I came back home, and began the process of grinding grain, made from emmer (an ancient grain, one of the first domesticated by humans), with the help of Marc-André Cyr, an accomplished baker here in Montreal.
Today I’m going to describe how I actually set about baking my Neolithic flatbread. (Spoiler: it takes a village!) My challenge was to bake the bread in a clay oven, like the ones I’d seen in the replica house in Çatalhöyük. The archaeobotanist responsible for analyzing remains from the site, Lara Gonzalez Carretero, had shown me photos of an outdoor oven she’d fashioned from clay, and I considered borrowing a backyard to do the same, but then settled on a compromise. Marc-André had suggested I contact the Turkish-born chef Fisun Ercan. During the pandemic, she’d opened Bika, a farm-to-table restaurant, in the semi-rural area around St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. When I called up Ercan, she told me she’d never baked with emmer, but would love to try. She had a specially built clay-walled oven in her kitchen and offered to fire it up for me.
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