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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

The spices most in favor were cummin


Although

in the earliest days the mistress and daughters of the house did the baking, female servants were later employed by the wealthier families. In Jerusalem indeed professional bakers, men, became so numerous that a section of the town bore the title of "Bakers' Street."

The flour used in the manufacture of the common bread was mixed with water or milk and kneaded with the hands in a small wooden bowl or trough. Except in cases of great haste, leavening was then added. The dough was allowed to stand for several hours, sometimes for the whole night, in moderate heat. It was next rolled out and cut into circular pieces about eight inches in diameter and three-quarters of an inch in thickness. These were occasionally punctured and soaked with oil.

[Illustration: A portable oven of the Jews and Egyptians.

(From an old Egyptian drawing.)]

A more delicate kind of bread was twice kneaded before baking, and stimulating seeds were added to it. Various varieties of thin cakes were also baked every day and biscuits of substantial character were furnished for travelers.

The professional bakers did their work in fixed, specially constructed ovens, but portable ovens were usually found in private houses. They were in the shape of stone or metal jars about three feet in height, and were heated from the interior with wood, dried

grass or flower stalks, the cakes being placed on the ashes or the exterior sides of the oven after the fire had burned down.

In other cases, a hole dug in the ground formed the oven, the sides being covered with clay and the bottom with pebbles. Again, sometimes the cakes were cooked on heated stones or by the more primitive method of laying them directly on burning logs, or between two layers of dried dung (then lighted and burned).

Some also baked the cakes in pans with oil and ate them whilst hot with honey, or cooked them in such thin layers that they crumbled in the fingers.

Figs were eaten fresh and dried. Pomegranates, mulberries, sycamore figs, citrons and apples were widely cultivated. Grapes were eaten raw or made into fruit cake (which possessed distinctly stimulating qualities). Similar cakes were also made of raisins, dates and figs--which were compressed into bricks, and when hardened could be cut up only by the use of an axe!

The bunches of grapes often attained a weight of twelve pounds.

Walnuts were plentiful. Oranges were introduced at a later date.

Among the vegetables grown were lentils (which were boiled and eaten with butter oil or fat and pepper), leeks, onions, beans, barley, lettuce, endive, purslane and other herbs. Vegetables were usually boiled as potage.

The spices most in favor were cummin, dill, coriander, mint, mustard and salt. Cummin was threshed with a rod and with salt served as a sauce.

Pistachio nuts and almonds were popular as whets.

Salads were extensively known.

Honey was used in some cakes as a substitute for sugar. It was also eaten raw or with other articles of food, even fish.

Various artificial productions made from fruits and the exudations of trees and shrubs bore the title of honey, the best known of which was the boiled down juice of the grape, then called "d'bash," known to modern Arabs as "dibs."


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