Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Tony Deyal | And sow to bread

Published:Saturday | July 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM

As a crusty older man, known for my love of bread in any form, fashion, name or origin, I still remember the story of the two insects who left the flour bin to go out into the world to seek fame, fortune and dough.

One became a roll model and the other, whose life was filled with many turnovers because of his half-baked schemes, died before knowing what a swell guy he was. He was always known as the lesser of the two weevils.

I thought about this romance that we have with bread and realised that it went even further back into the past than I had initially believed. A few days ago, I saw an article in Science News that at an archaeological site in northeastern Jordan, researchers discovered the charred remains of a flatbread baked by hunter-gatherers 14,400 years ago.

At first, not understanding the importance of the find, I thought it was much adough about nothing. Then I realised the significance. People were baking bread long before they got into farming and agriculture.

In fact, while we still have problems determining what came first, the chicken or the egg, we know now that having tasted and so enjoyed their bread made from wild cereals like barley, einkorn (a type of wheat), and oat, hunter-gatherers began to cultivate cereals to make bread, and whether it was accompanied by chicken or egg, it did not matter.

While this was very far in time, taste and process from Kellogg's or General Mills, it was a major step in the right direction and led to the agricultural revolution that came later when people stopped retracing their Steppes over Asia and decided to settle down in relatively permanent communities all because of their love of bread.

The only thing I can say about these early hunter-gatherers is either their passion for bread was greater than mine or some of them were so fanatically vegetarian that they scoured the plains for the grains, ground the combination of seeds using stones that they must have carried with them over very long distances through the grasslands, sieve or sift, and then add water to knead them into loaves before baking their bread in large stone ovens.

These were no half-baked bread lovers. The scientists found charred remains of a flatbread, something like roti, arepas or bammy, which showed that although the art of baking had not risen to the later heights it achieved through Mr Fleischmann in the far yeast or following the Red Star whenever it rose, they so loved their bread that it actually made them settle down to farm the grains.


Scale of evolution


It is clear that the gastronomic scale of evolution, like music, begins and ends with dough. The invention spread like butter on hot bread and soon its fame spread throughout the ancient caves. Probably, bread helped to make the dinosaurs extinct either because it transformed the Tyrannosaurus Rex from a carnivore to a breadnut like me or even a doughnut, or more likely, these people invented the sandwich before the Earl who is supposed to have done it and nothing tasted better than barbecued dinosaur.

Later, the Egyptians discovered that allowing wheat doughs to ferment, thus forming gases, produced a light, expanded loaf, and they also developed baking ovens. I believe Mark Anthony's frequent travels to Egypt were not, as Shakespeare and History would have it, because of his attraction to Cleopatra. In his position, I would tell her to take her barge and shove it up her asp because, although she was well endoughed, even in her arms I would be more interested in her buns. That, after all, is the way the cookie crumbles for us flour glutens.

Like Mark Anthony and his love for Egypt, my love for Barbados is related to bread. While Trini pride might be in its oil wealth and Jamaican in its culture, Bajan Pride is a flour. Barbados is the only country I know that has a bread called a 'Health Cob'. In spite of the word 'cob', it is not a cornbread.

The word 'cob' is from Late Middle English and means 'rounded' or 'head', so a 'cob' is a round-headed loaf. In my 26 years of travelling through the Caribbean, my nomadic life continues to bring me many breadren and flour favourites.

In Jamaica, I don't wait until Easter to enjoy the Easter spice bun. I have my Guyanese tennis rolls without any need for cheese or jams, and freshly baked Adam's bagels in Trinidad don't require anything more than currants, a little cinnamon or maybe poppy or sesame seeds. Clearly, the Lord was on to something when he made sure the request, "Give us this day our daily bread" was incorporated into his personal prayer.

I'm not sure how many of you remember the Pillsbury Doughboy (aka Pop N. Fresh), who was the advertising mascot for the company. Writing about bread and chewing on a piece of hot roti led me to resurrect his epitaph. "Pop N. Fresh died Wednesday of a severe yeast infection. He was 71. He was buried Friday in one of the biggest funerals in years. Dozens of celebrities turned out, including Mrs Butterworth, the California Raisins, Hungry Jack, Betty Crocker, and the Hostess Twinkies. The graveside was piled high with flours, as long-time friend Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy, describing Fresh as a man who 'never knew he was kneaded'.

"Fresh rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a smart cookie and wasted much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Still, even as a crusty old man, he was a roll model to millions. Fresh is survived by his second wife. They had two children, and one in the oven ... ."

Fear not, my breadren, Fresh will rise again.

Tony Deyal was last seen sleeping on a bread-spread and smiling happily.