World’s oldest bread found at prehistoric site in Jordan

A stone structure at an archaeological site containing a fireplace, seen in the middle, where charred remains of 14,500-year-old bread was found in the Black Desert, in northeastern Jordan in this photo provided July 16, 2018. (Alexis Pantos/Handout via Reuters)
Updated 17 July 2018
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World’s oldest bread found at prehistoric site in Jordan

WASHINGTON: Charred remains of a flatbread baked about 14,500 years ago in a stone fireplace at a site in northeastern Jordan have given researchers a delectable surprise: people began making bread, a vital staple food, millennia before they developed agriculture.
No matter how you slice it, the discovery detailed on Monday shows that hunter-gatherers in the Eastern Mediterranean achieved the cultural milestone of bread-making far earlier than previously known, more than 4,000 years before plant cultivation took root.
The flatbread, likely unleavened and somewhat resembling pita bread, was fashioned from wild cereals such as barley, einkorn or oats, as well as tubers from an aquatic papyrus relative, that had been ground into flour.
It was made by a culture called the Natufians, who had begun to embrace a sedentary rather than nomadic lifestyle, and was found at a Black Desert archaeological site.
“The presence of bread at a site of this age is exceptional,” said Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a University of Copenhagen postdoctoral researcher in archaeobotany and lead author of the research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Arranz-Otaegui said until now the origins of bread had been associated with early farming societies that cultivated cereals and legumes. The previous oldest evidence of bread came from a 9,100-year-old site in Turkey.
“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Arranz-Otaegui said. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”
University of Copenhagen archaeologist and study co-author Tobias Richter pointed to the nutritional implications of adding bread to the diet. “Bread provides us with an important source of carbohydrates and nutrients, including B vitamins, iron and magnesium, as well as fiber,” Richter said.
Abundant evidence from the site indicated the Natufians had a meat- and plant-based diet. The round floor fireplaces, made from flat basalt stones and measuring about a yard (meter) in diameter, were located in the middle of huts.
Arranz-Otaegui said the researchers have begun the process of trying to reproduce the bread, and succeeded in making flour from the type of tubers used in the prehistoric recipe. But it might have been an acquired taste.
“The taste of the tubers,” Arranz-Otaegui said, “is quite gritty and salty. But it is a bit sweet as well.”


OPA: Enjoy a traditional Greek experience in Dubai

OPA, a Greek restaurant in the Fairmont hotel Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 19 February 2019
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OPA: Enjoy a traditional Greek experience in Dubai

  • OPA offers a range of traditional Greek dishes and treats
  • Take a step into Greece with OPA's lavish decor

DUBAI: Upon entering Dubai’s latest Greek restaurant OPA at the Fairmont Hotel, diners are transported from the concrete jungle to a lavish, plant-filled lobby with a tree growing right in the center of the room, before moving into the dining area that’s been made to look like a traditional Greek establishment, with white-painted walls and light blue linings.

OPA offers a range of traditional Greek dishes and treats, many of which are similar to those found in most Mediterranean cuisines, but with a fancier touch.
Before we even sat down at our round, saloon-style couched table, loud (like, loud!) Greek music burst from the speakers as the waiters, dressed in chiton and peplos — traditional Greek clothing — gathered around and began dancing across the restaurant, inviting guests to join the fun and be a part of the unique experience. White, clay plates were passed to every table and diners were encouraged to smash them on the floor. More people were willing to get involved in the latter. Who knew the dining experience would come with an anger-management class?
First up was a trifecta of spicy feta, tzatziki and tarama dips coupled with seasoned and toasted triangular pita bread. While the tarama dip was fishier than others I’ve tasted, the spicy feta and tzatziki dips were lick-the-bowl-clean good. After came a chunky and refreshing Greek salad (because why not) and a black truffle tuna tartare that hit the spot both taste-wise and texturally, as the velvety softness of the raw fish worked well with the crispy koulouri.

The hot appetizers rolled in later — grilled octopus, prawns saganaki, and grilled Cypriot halloumi. While the grilled octopus offered little to differentiate it from other restaurant offerings, the saganaki offered a twist to the traditional flaming saganaki, with its feta cheese and roasted peppers-infused spicy tomato sauce. The halloumi was on another level — the sweetness of the grilled fig and grape dressing went hand in hand with the saltiness of the cheese, making it a pleasant surprise to the taste buds.
The mains began with three lamb chops served with pickled cucumbers and tzatziki, a hearty and rich dish that will have you sucking at the bone just to get more of the lamb flavor. Next up was the lobster orzo “risotto” (according to the menu), a grilled half-lobster marinated with seaweed butter laying on a bed of orzo mixed with tomato sauce. While the dish sounded extravagantly rich, it was actually rather flat — the flavors never really reached their full potential: the sauce was a tad bland and the lobster-to-orzo ratio leaned heavily on the orzo.

For dessert, we were served the OPA baklava sundae, a large crispy filo cup stuffed with pistachio cream, caramel and Greek yoghurt ice-cream, pieces of baklava and topped with crumbled pistachios and caramel sauce. It resembled a massive Turkish cupcake, and was enough for a table of four hungry diners. If you’re skilled enough to dig through from the top to the bottom and manage to balance all its components without having one fall, then you’re in for an exciting mouthful.

All in all, OPA is well worth a visit. Whether you’re in a group celebrating a birthday, a couple going out on a date or even going solo to reward yourself for surviving yet another hectic work week, take a step into Greece and away from Dubai’s tall towers and traffic-filled roads.