Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Shortly after I'd read Serra and Tunberg's book An Early Meal, I followed a link from Katrin Kania's blog, A stitch in time, to an article about a food writer who has been experimenting with recreating ancient flatbreads.

The author's name is Paula Marcoux and her book is called Cooking With Fire.  Her book is very different from Serra and Tunberg's.  Instead of working primarily from the evidence of foodstuffs and kitchen equipment, Marcoux focuses on the actual physical techniques of early period cooking--details such as how to build a proper cookfire and how to make the stone-lined pits Serra and Tunberg discuss--and teaches the reader how to perform those techniques.  The link Katrin provided was to an article about Marcoux's book on io9, but you can read a better article about Marcoux's work here, at

In the Splendid Table article, Marcoux describes her version of a Scandinavian flatbread that Vikings might have made:  she calls it  Protohistoric Multigrain Flatbread, to poke a bit of fun at archaeologist pretensions. Marcoux devised this recipe from remains of carbonized bread found in Scandinavian cremation graves.  She observes:
When things are burned, they are often partially burned, lightly carbonized, and that preserves grain extremely well. Archaeologists have been able to determine exactly the components and shapes of these flatbreads, which I found entirely fascinating. Once I'd learned what types of grains they were made of, the types of fats that were in there, the shapes of the grains, the shapes of the flatbreads, there's nothing more to it -- that's basically a recipe.
I picked out a few of my favorite combinations and made them. It turned out they were really delicious, they keep very well and they are fun to make. You can leave a little hole in the middle, string them up and they keep for ages -- that's how people in Scandinavia used to keep their grain crop. If they kept the grain in its own natural state, it would go moldy or get mildewy. But if they made it into bread right away and then strung it up in their houses, it would keep for the entire season until the next harvest time
Although I'll put Marcoux's book on my wishlist, her Protohistoric Multigrain Flatbread recipe can be found here. It's made from a combination of oats and rye flour. I may give it a try, as best I can manage in my kitchen, on a gas stovetop with just a skillet. If the taste is appealing enough, I may invest in a long-handled griddle of the type the Vikings reputedly used to make flatbreads, hoping to have an opportunity to cook them over a fire sometime.

1 comment:

  1. I just got a look at Cooking with Fire over the weekend, and I so want a copy now. It's a great book, and the pictures are fantastic.