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Hopi Piki Bread

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HistoricFoodie View Drop Down
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    Posted: 14 July 2013 at 07:52
When Friend Wife and I visited with the Sami people in Swedish Lapland, we were initially surprised to learn that, when still nomadic (they mostly live in settled communities, now) they used conical tents that suspiciously resembled the tipis of the American plains tribes.

Giving some thought to it, however, we realized that there are a limited number of solutions to any human problem, and diverse peoples will, of necessity, repeat them.

So it is with flatbreads. As we’ve seen here: http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/babylonian-bread_topic3336_page2.html and again here: http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/the-staff-of-life-a-primer-on-baking-bread_topic3089_page2.html primitive peoples the world around take a batter or dough, lay it on a heated surface, and make bread that way.

Not just primitive folks. After all, what are pancakes other than leavened, surface-cooked flatbreads.

I had reason to think about this again while reading Mark Kurlansky’s “The Food of a Younger Land,” his compilation of part of the WPA’s America Eats! Writers project. One of the papers he includes in the southwestern section is a method used by the Hopi to make their flatbreads. Once again we see how a batter is spread on a heated surface to cook the bread.

Here, in toto, is the small essay describing the procedure:

The Piki Bread of the Hopis

Piki bread was being made by the Hopi Indians as far back as 1540, and time has not materially changed the bread or the method of its making. Colored corn is dried in the sun and shelled. Then the grain is broken in a rough metate, passed on to a finer tone for thorough pounding, and then into a stone bin where it is thoroughly pulverized. Then it is placed in a big earthen mixing bowl and thinned to a batter with water.

     In the meantime a big stone two feet long byone foot wide has been heating over a wood-fire. The top of this baking stone, rubbed to a satin smoothness, is greased with mutton-tallow. When it is smoking hot the baker dips her fingers into the batter and with one swift sweep spreads a layer entirely over the hot surface, where it cooks almost instantly. With another swift jerk she removes the thin sheet from the stone and smears another over it. The sheets are rolled into cylinders about the size of an ear of corn.

     No Hopi dance or christening is considered complete without a feast to follow, and the serving of piki bread is so usual it might well be called a ritual. “

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 July 2013 at 09:41
Sounds interesting! I'd like to try it with the mixed color corn. I'm curious about the use of "mutton-tallow". I wouldn't think they had or used mutton?
Seems like almost every culture made flat bread on stone at some point. Great minds thinking alike!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 July 2013 at 12:30
Would depend, I believe, on the timing. The Navaho were big sheep raisers, and there's no reason to believe the Hopi---who live in the same area---weren't also shepherds.

Keep in mind that the essay was written by a White observer in the late 1930s, and the historical aspects may have been less than perfect.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Effigy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 July 2013 at 03:30
This post carries a warning.....
Anne aka Hawis de Wereceworde on the topic of open fire baking can provoke long extended raves...
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

Giving some thought to it, however, we realized that there are a limited number of solutions to any human problem, and diverse peoples will, of necessity, repeat them
Oh so true...
My twelfth century tent  replica is a large woollen geteld which is essentially an 'A' framed tent or elongated tipi. I am certain I could have a small controlled cook fire in it - camp security prevents this particular experiment and as I live atop a very windy hill there is nowhere flat enough to erect a 7x3m Geteld to perform this experiment at home.
Version two geteld which I am currently handsewing will only be 3.5m round diameter and I hope to experiment at home with internal fire.
When we camp I bake viking flatbreads, on a suspended iron skillet held on a crane beside the fire. I also make a shallow round yeasted loaf the same way - I have learned to use the radiant heat of the fire, rather than direct. 
I have seen images of the stone you refer to used at re-enactment camps but have no research to confirm or deny this is also an indigenous European solution. Given that medieval cast iron is expensive in Europe and not widely used until the mid 1700's, I surmise that it is possible that slate and similar stone could have been used the same way.
I also bake using well greased ceramic pots beside a good bed of coals.
As a flight of fancy this is my most desired project for the next medieval camp I attend...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 July 2013 at 06:24
Wow! Wouldn't that be sumpin!

Of course, we shouldn't be surprised at the sorts of things found on wheels. I've a blacksmith friend who has a complete portable forge.

I don't mean one of those small portable forges with the round, hand-cranked blowers. This is a scaled-down forge, with a bellows and all the bells and whistles found on a standard forge. Only the whole thing is on wheels.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 January 2015 at 15:13
I do not believe the American indians had mutton until the 1700's.
At least I have never seen any references to them having sheep and I believe the Spanish were the ones who introduced them into the southwest.
There are several species of ovids native to America, desert, big horn and dall come to mind.
I do not know of any being domesticated .
The native flat bread is the corn tortilla.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AK1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 January 2015 at 19:51
They would not have to have been domesticated, just used. Given the native species of Ovids, there would have probably been tribes that would have availed themselves of that particular meat source.
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