Whoever invented bread was smart. Think about it. Making bread involves a series of steps that don’t seem at all intuitive to me. Wikipedia tells me that humans have been eating bread for at least 30,000 years. It’s a little galling to think that grunting cave men were able to come up with something I’d have no idea how to do myself, if left to my own devices. I tried to imagine the set of circumstances in which some average cave person (let’s call her Cavewoman Keri) might figure something like this out.
It’s late fall, somewhere around 28,000 B.C. I’m trudging across the Steppe with my cousin Oog, hunting and gathering. I’m irritable, because it’s hot and nuts and berries are scarce and Oog never shuts her irritating yap. Dumb as a mastodon, that one, but somehow she always ends up with the biggest hunk of yak meat. I think it’s because she puts out. Anyway.
After a few hours Oog and I decide to take a break and eat our grub. Our grub is literally grubs, by the way. We’re hunters and gatherers, duh. So we’re sitting beside a little stream in the middle of a stand of rushes, and Oog is yammering on about how pretty the tall grass is this time of year and isn’t life just great and I finally snap and say, “It’s a good think you love these weeds so much, because with all the lollygagging you’ve been doing instead of hunting and gathering today, we’re likely to have to eat this stuff all winter.”* To emphasize my point, I grab a handful of the seedheads and stuff them into my mouth.
“Ugh,” I say, spitting it out after a couple of chews. “This sucks. Only thing worth eating is the bug that came with it.”
“I don’t know,” Oog says, nibbling thoughtfully on a stalk. “I’ve had worse.”
Honestly, this girl would find the bright side of the inside of the cave bear that ate her. How she’s lived this long, I’ll never know.
I’m so mad that I pick up a rock and start beating the hell out of the little stack of grass on the ground in front of me. I pound so hard that the seedheads are pulverized into dust.
“Neat!” Oog exclaims, because she’s Oog. She scoops up the seed dust into a little pile.
“Quit fooling around and eat your grubs,” I say. “It’s almost time to get back to the old h&g” (that’s how we refer to our day job, hunting and gathering). She’s not listening, as usual, so I scoop up a handful of cold creek water and throw it at her. Most of it lands on the pile of seed dust. And of course, that just makes Oog more excited. She stirs it up with her finger until it’s a puddle of white liquid. “Looks just like that stuff cousin Egah has been squeezing out of yaks,” she comments. I grimace in disgust; everybody knows Egah’s a pervert. Oog smiles at me. “I think you’ve invented powdered milk!”
I dip my finger into the goo, then my mouth. “This doesn’t taste anything like yak milk,” I growl, then blush as I realize I’ve just admitted to sampling Egah’s brew myself.
Meanwhile, Oog’s been adding more seed powder to the puddle and playing around with it until it’s a big lump of dirty gray mud. “I’m going to keep this,” she says, wrapping it up in some leaves.
I just roll my eyes. Oog’s always doing stuff like this. Last week I caught her making shapes on the walls of the cave with wet clay. Gotta admit, it was kind of pretty when she got it done. But you can’t eat clay, any more than that lump of goo she’s so taken with now.
So anyway, we go back to hunting and gathering and yada yada yada, we’re back at the cave that night with the rest of the clan and nobody’s found diddly for fruits and berries and it looks like it’s going to be a long winter. Oog sets her lump of goo on a stone next to the fire and a while later I hear her gasp.
“Look at it! It’s growing!”
I look down at the pile of goo and see that sure enough, it’s twice the size it was. “It’s alive!” I shout and kick it into the embers at the edge of the fire.
“Aw, you’ve killed it!” Oog pouts and I’ve had just about enough of her for one day. I stomp out of the cave into the cool night air. Behind me, I hear the crowd chattering away. “Well, I’ll be damned,” comes the voice of my Uncle Crood. About that time, I start to smell something like I never have before. Something … delicious.
I look back into the cave and see that Oog has fished the lump of goo off the coals. Now it looks like a brown rock, and the delicious smell seems to be coming from it. It occurs to me that a person could put a piece of dried yak between two hunks of that stuff and take it with them to the H&G as a nice change from grubs, but before I can turn back into the cave with my suggestion, a giant sabre-toothed tiger jumps out of the darkness and grabs me by the neck. And so the invention of the sandwich is lost for 30,000 years.
My last thought, as he drags my twitching carcass into the weeds, is that Oog will probably get all the credit for this, when really I was the one who invented bread.
Artichoke & Spinach-Stuffed Soft Pretzels (adapted from this recipe)
Salted Pretzel Roll Mix
1 cup warm water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
Coarse salt to taste (I used Himalayan Sea Salt)
Artichoke & Spinach Warm Dip Mix
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Mix up Salted Pretzel Roll Mix as directed on package. Cover dough and let rise about an hour (this is longer than specified on the package).
While dough is rising, prepare Artichoke & Spinach Dip Mix as directed on package, substituting mozzarella for Swiss cheese (unless you like Swiss cheese; then use that. Whatever.) Add crumbled bacon if desired.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
When dough has doubled in size, divide it into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle.
Spread dip mix along one side of rectangle, then roll up into a log with dip encased inside. Be sure ends and seams are closed.
Shape dough logs into pretzel shapes.
Gradually stir baking soda into pot of boiling water.Using a slotted spoon, dip pretzels two at a time into the boiling soda water; boil for 30 seconds, then remove pretzels to a baking sheet.
Brush each pretzel with a wash of beaten egg; sprinkle with salt.
Bake pretzels for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 5 minutes. Serve hot.
*approximation of stone age dialect