Books Magazine

Flour

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Of all the most important step forwards in human evolution from writing to the use of metals to electromagnetism I would put the simple of act of mixing flour and water to make bread the most revolutionary. It brought about the change from being hunters gatherers to farmers.
Some of the oldest evidence for flour being used for bread comes from archaeological sites. One dates back 25,000 years to a place in Italy.Other Palaeolithic sites in Russia have revealed that flour production was known in Europe at least 30,000 years ago.   One of the oldest technologies for making flour is the combination of a stone mortar and pestle to initially break the grain, and the saddle quern for grinding it. The saddle quern is an elongated stone with a depression in it where the grain is placed, and then a woman (it was usually a woman) kneels in front of the short end and pushes a smaller stone back and forth over the grain in a rocking motion.

Flour

Saddle Quern

It takes a long time to make any useful amount of flour in this manner. In fact, archaeologists examining women’s bones from a Neolithic site in what is now Northern Syria, found many of the women had deformities to their toes, legs, back, and pelvis which can be attributed to spending many hours kneeling in front of a saddle quern.
I looked all that stuff of course but I couldn’t quite visualize the process from something on top of the grass to the end result. Then I found the video below and I don’t think it’s cheating in an article using technology to make the most of it. So here is a link: instructive video
All the rest of human civilization is a progression from that.
  So what is flour? Different cultures have flour made from different cereals and while in European, North America, Middle Eastern, Indian and North African cultures it is most commonly made from wheat, in Central America it is made from corn while in central Europe it can be made of rye. Some types of flour are made from rice.   There are other types of flour such as: acorn flour, almond flour, amaranth flour, atta flour, bean flour, brown rice flour, etc. but our main concern is on the flour used to make bread. In this there are a high proportion of starches, which are a subset of complex carbohydrates also known as polysaccharides. The higher the protein content the harder and stronger the flour, and the more it will produce crusty or chewy breads. The lower the protein the softer the flour, which is better for cakes, cookies, and pie crusts.   And why flour? It seems the word is originally a variant of the word flower, and both words derive from the Old French fleur or flour, which had the literal meaning "blossom", and a figurative meaning "the finest". The phrase fleur de farine meant "the finest part of the meal", since flour resulted from the elimination of coarse and unwanted matter from the grain during milling.
Flour   I was just wondering whether the stuff could be used for anything else when I came across this website called onegoodthingbyjill on that very subject; Here are some of her tips:
Repel Ants If you spot ants around the house, sprinkle a line of flour somewhere in the area. Ants don’t like the taste or feel of powdery flour, so they’ll usually avoid it if they can.
Clean Playing Cards Have you a deck of cards that has seen better days, you can use flour to freshen them up. Just toss your cards into a zip-lock bag with a handful of flour, and shake well. Then remove the cards from the bag and wipe them off with a clean, dry cloth. The flour will help to absorb moisture, oily residues, and grime. Once you wipe them clean, your cards will be looking much better.
Shine Stainless Steel After cleaning your stainless steel appliances, you can use a bit of flour to really make them sparkle. Just sprinkle a bit of flour onto a clean, dry cloth, and use it to buff your stainless steel to a lovely shine.
Dry Shampoo At a pinch, you can use flour to “dry shampoo” your hair and absorb excess oils. But first, you’ll want to grab a sieve and sift that flour. (Sifted flour is easier to apply evenly, and won’t look quite so clumpy.) Apply the sifted flour to the roots of your hair using a fluffy makeup brush. Let the flour sit for 30 minutes, then brush or shake out any excess flour. (It’s best to do this step in your tub or shower so you don’t make a mess of your bathroom.) The flour will help to absorb oily residue, and your hair will look much fresher afterwards.
Ripen Avocados If you have an avocado that’s not quite ripe yet, you can use flour to speed up the ripening process. Place your avocado in a paper bag and cover it in flour, then place the bag on your countertop for 24 hours or so. When your wait is over, your avocado should be ready to use.
But don’t go too mad about flour as flour dust can be very, very explosive.
After the making of flour and thus bread I’d put the invention of writing as the major factor in the progress of human kind. There have been several theories as to how writing came about. This is in fact the correct one:
  Accountants 2 sheep plus 3 goats plus 1 bushel of wheat equals what? I don’t know, I don’t even know what a bushel is and neither did these guys in Uruk who had a bit of a problem explaining that one of their goats had already been sold to a bloke from Lagash and they only had enough tokens left for three jars of oil and this stupid sod from Kish still didn’t get it till they pressed them down on a bit of clay which seemed to help so they did it again just to show off to their mates in the pub and would you believe it it caught on and the next thing is they’re selling the farm doing whole tablets of the stuff so their neighbours could count whatever while they charged a fortune then putting in security after the not so stupid son of the sod from Kish scraped a sheep shape off the waxy surface which they couldn’t prove so they baked them which stopped that nonsense and then got a bit cocky adding symbols they made up for this girl in Umma they both fancied till her Dad replied using even clearer signs that he’d also made up so they made some more and before you know it there’s scrabble and lawyers and Simon Armitage. Terry Quinn First published in the Acumen Literary Journal, Sept 2011
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