The History of Flour Houses
Macaxeira is a plant cultivated by the Indians well before the arrival of the colonizers, and since then it has become widely cultivated in all parts of Brazil, being used in great quantity of Brazilian culinary recipes, like tapioca.
Tapioca is so famous and appreciated that it appears in historical records dating from 1551, written by the Jesuit priest João Manoel da Nobrega on his visit to Pernambuco.
But before becoming this wonderful indigenous delicacy, the macaxeira needs to be transformed into flour and this process begins from the planting of manivas. After harvesting the root (tuber), cassava is taken from the farm to the so-called flour houses, where it is peeled and placed in the water to soften and ferment.
The "House of Flour" is the place where cassava is made into flour . The shed or shelter destined to the preparation of the cassava flour, was called a flour house and in the pre colonial phase a flour house, was nothing more than a shelter of thatch, sometimes with only one closed side, covered with straw and ground of clay having a pot; a wooden wheel with an iron shaft; rope to rotate the wheel; wooden bench, with caititu (crusher): wooden lame, mass dresser; press; sieve where the crushed and pressed dough passes to avoid passing large pieces of cassava; lame to trim the manipueira, which gives the gum; lame to sieve; made with a huge quartz stone, resting on a wooden tripod against the fire; sticks, which are used to stir the dough, and gourds distributed in the middle, as utensils for our ancestors to stir and throw up the flour, until the product is at the "right point", that is, roasted the enough to not ruin.
In the flour houses the tasks were divided, some men were responsible for the process of plucking the cassava from the field and transporting it to the flour house. Women and children scraped the tubers and extracted the starch or starch.
In these places, in addition to the production of cassava flour, various cultural manifestations were developed, such as the farinhadas - cheerful parties with music, dance and of course, very beiju, our dear tapioca. The farinha celebrated not only the end result of a working day or a productive cycle, but also the family ties in its execution, since the production was done in a handmade way, with family labor or with the participation of members of the community.
The flour houses have great historical-cultural importance. We can say that the maintenance of the structure of "house" and of some instruments used in the colonial period appeared there. Another point worth mentioning is the strengthening of indigenous language, used to name phases and products of the flour manufacturing process. It should also be emphasized the singing performed during the work, which emphasizes even more the historical and socio-cultural aspects, besides the social, family and community relations and the subsistence economy, typical of the indigenous community.
By Nathália Leme. Text originally published in Bora Magazine - issue 14 - Nov / Dec, 2015
Photo by Cícero R. C. Omena - Casa de farinha, CC BY 2.0