I finally learned how to prepare our own wheat for making into flour. It was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Listening to Omar it sounded like quite a production but it took a half an hour to clean and a few hours to dry!
This was the wheat which we grew last year and which the family ended up with most of, as usual! I wanted my own grain as we had paid for it and produced it. I was tired of having to be a beggar when we provide it all! Ludicrous. So we brought a large bag upstairs to the flat and I washed enough to keep us going in bread for a couple of months.
This entailed rinsing the wheat through a large sieve to get the soil out. Omar told me to wash it all in our plastic laundry bin but this didn’t remove the soil so I used our sieve instead. It took longer but was much more efficient.
Once I had washed enough I laid it all out on a sheet on our bedroom floor, under the fan, to dry. Omar came in and said it needed to be in the sun. I didn’t agree. My father owned a corn factory when I was a child and he used drying machines to dry it. I was pretty sure that if I left the warm air coming in through the window to be circulated with the overhead fan, that it would dry well enough for the mill! It did! Omar took it later that evening to the local mill and picked it up the following day.
When he came back he was thrilled. He said that the miller had commented that the woman who prepared this wheat did a brilliant job, that it was exactly as it should be. The flour was fine and good enough for cakes. The removed wheat bran/germ was also as it was supposed to be. The miller was also a little surprised as the wheat they normally got from our house was way too dry. Here, the women wash it and put it in the hot sun to dry, which leaves it hard, dry and brittle. The bran that is removed is then used for a base to place the rising dough on so that it doesn’t stick. They don’t actually eat it!Needless to say Omar didn’t mention that his wife had done it. He takes the credit for all my work! God forbid a woman should be smarter or more successful. Egyptian men!
Omar was so pleased with the flour that he took some down to his mother for approval/competition. Never a good move. I knew it was only a matter of time before there would be consequences for bragging!
That came yesterday. It is the big feast in a couple of days and the women all traditionally make Fiteer. a thin flat bread baked in the oven. It is Fiteer when it is thin and crispy, but Grus when slightly thicker, and layered with oil! However, they had stored their flour badly and beetles had gotten into it, so they wanted some of mine! Every time they are careless with their food and they know I have some, they will just ask me, or rather Omar, who then gives it to them. I was not happy. Normally, when their flour has beetles they sieve them out, so what was different about today? The difference was they knew I had good flour!
Like a ‘good wife’ I gave them a week’s worth of flour, and told them how to store it so that it didn’t get ants or beetles in it. Why am I, an Irish woman, telling Egyptian women how to store flour they have been storing for years – badly? Don’t they know this stuff already?
Later on Omar told me that the wife in question had complained that the flour I had given them was not enough so they mixed it with the other flour, which they sieved to get the beetles out, as they normally do! I told Omar that never again is he going to brag about anything that I produce because these women are just downright ungrateful for everything!
I am glad though that I learned how to prepare our own wheat, because when we do have our own place I will know how to do this stuff. However, now we have to keep everything quiet when we do something well, or get anything new. If we don’t, they demand it all and then ‘send me to Coventry’ if they don’t get it. Personally I’d rather be in Coventry. Its a lot more peaceful there, but it does make me feel sad that they take us so much for granted. These dynamics can make it a pretty lonely place to be.