A Daily Kitchen Schedule

The background calculations for this post comes from The Rhythms of Bread.

In my New Kingdom Egyptian village kitchen, for a family compound of around 75 people, this is how I envision the work done in the kitchen each day. Sunrise and sunset are correct for April. They would not have used clocks; the timing is for my internal use only.

Through-out the day:

  • De-hull grain (with some water) and put in baskets to take out for drying. (2 hours working time).
  • Grind dry grain and put in containers to use later. (20 hours working time, using multiple people and several grinding stations).
  • Haul water from well.
  • Remove dirty water to water garden or give to livestock (along with vegetable scraps).
  • Beermaking (have not yet researched the various steps).
  • Make cheeses, kefir/fermented drinks, put up pickles, and work on other long range cooking projects.

Early morning (before breakfast, about 5-6am, sunrise is 5:30):

  • Lay out damp de-hulled grain from previous day on clean cloths in the sun to dry (as the sun becomes strong).
  • Mix the bread dough levain (aka leaven)(flour, water, sourdough starter) and set aside (as early as possible, it sits for 5 hours).
  • Feed the sourdough starter (flour and water), put away for next day.
  • Drain porridge grain, cook (about 45 minutes).
  • Wash any dishes from previous night.

Breakfast (about 6am):

  • Porridge.
  • Leftover bread.
  • Leftover food from previous day.

Late morning (between breakfast and lunch, about 6am-noon):

  • Immediately after breakfast, pack workers’ lunches (basket with bread covered in leftovers).
  • Mix additional dough, set aside for an autolyse (about 9am, let sit for 1 hour).
  • Mix levain with autolyse, add leftover porridge, salt, other ingredients (around 10am).
  • Ferment dough, begin 3 sets of stretches and folds (10am-2pm).
  • Take some dough for quick lunch bread, cook on pans or rocks.
  • Drain beans from last night’s soak.
  • Cook beans.
  • Prepare stews, vegetables, any meat or fish, cheese, etc., for dinner, as well as some for lunch.
  • Lay out grain de-hulled that morning for drying.
  • Wash dishes.

Lunch (about noon):

  • Workers in brickyards and fields eat their packaged lunches. Lunch is served at the family compound for kitchen workers, young children, and others not working elsewhere.
  • Any leftovers.
  • Fresh quick bread.
  • Beans/stews, salads, and other dishes that are ready to serve.

Afternoon (between lunch and dinner, about noon to 6pm, sunset at 6:22):

  • Winnow dried grain and collect into baskets for grinding (after a couple hours in strong sun).
  • Lay out any additional de-hulled grain, collect and winnow up to just before dinner.
  • Finish cooking dishes for dinner and complete other dinner prep.
  • Continue to ferment dough, finish 3 sets of stretches and folds (10am-2pm).
  • Cut and pre-shape the dough on a floured work surface (2-2:30pm, let sit for 25 minutes).
  • Shape dough, let rest, place in proofing baskets (optional: top with seeds) (2:30-3pm).
  • Proof dough (3-5pm).
  • Bring oven to temp, prep molds (3-5pm).
  • Put bread in molds, bake (5-6pm).

Dinner (about 6pm):

  • Fresh baked bread.
  • Beans/stews, salads, and a variety of vegetable, meat, cheese, and fish dishes as available.
  • Beer, tea, water, and kefir or other fermented dairy drinks.

Evening (after dinner, about 7pm on):

  • Bank ovens/stoves.
  • Put de-hulled grain in water to soak for porridge.
  • Soak beans for next day’s meal.
  • Clean up.
  • Do dishes if there is time, otherwise scrape and soak them to wash the next morning.
Frühstück in al-Qurna.  Frühstückstisch für die Arbeiter an einer Ausgrabung in al-Qurna/Ägypten.  (Breakfast table for the workers at an excavation in al-Qurna/Egypt.) 17 December 2007.

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