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> RECREATING THE COOKING TECHNIQUES



One of the most important aspects of the Neolithic life was that of providing and preparing the food. We know a lot about how the Neolithic communities obtained the food, but we know less about how they cultivated the plants, raised the animals and cooked their food , the few data are mere deduction obtained from analyzing and comparing the way archaic communities and traditional ones prepare the food. Thus, most of the animal bones discovered in the Cucuteni settlements don’t have burning traces suggesting that the meat was usually boiled and occasionally roasted. Also, the dishes having marks of secondary burning prove that they were used to boil the animal and vegetal food.

Sure data about the cooking of the vegetal food in these communities are offered by numerous grinders found there. Cereal grains and other kinds of seeds were milled and the product was used for some broths. The flour for bread was made of wheat, barley, rye, millet. It is difficult to know if the dough was leavened, but taking into consideration that ethnographic data certifies the presence of some vegetal enzymes, it is possible that the Cucuteni inhabitants used some natural ferments to make the dough grow. The baking was done on the heated surfaces of the fireplaces or on hot stones kept on fire or in ovens.

The ovens were found in the houses and near them in sheltered places. They were round or oval and had the fireplace made of clay built on beams, on a stonebed or on some ceramic fragments. In many cases, the stones or the potsherds were mixed with the clay in order to maintain the warmth. The vault of the oven was made of clayed wattling, as some remains prove that. Wishing to recreate some aspects of the daily life of the Cucuteni communities, in 2002 we wanted to raise an oven for bread, sheltered by a light wooden structure covered with reed. At first, we built the structure of the fireplace using stones glued with clay. On this structure we laid a thick layer of clay which would be the surface of the fireplace.

Then we built the vault of the oven. We placed rods of nut tree in the clay structure that was surrounding the fireplace and wattled them until they made a vault over it. The pasting was done gradually in order not to damage the wattling. At the back of the oven, in the vault there was a small chimney. In front of the oven opening we made a clay threshold where the hot charcoal could be kept after the bread was put in the oven.Once the vault glued, we finished the oven adding a fine layer of clay all over it. Then, we built a wooden structure to protect it and covered it in reed, that’s why the oven dried in time and at dark. The first fire helped us find the cracks and fix them.


For the bread we used wheat flour. After the leavening, the dough was turned into loaves of bread and knot-shaped bread. After the oven had been heated, the bread was placed inside, on the fireplace now clean of charcoal.

The baking lasted an hour. Obviously, this is an approximate reconstitution but it was confirmed by the ethnographic data recorded nowadays in Cucuteni. Beside the bread, they used to bake unleveaned dough too, we call them ‘lipii’, or cooked different kinds of food, and we will try to do the same in the future.

 

 

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