Cooking in Biblical Times

biblical cooking

I always ask myself, “What would be some of the recipes people prepared during Jesus’s time?” So, I recently booked a trip to the spectacular land of Israel to find out.

The Bible’s story begins with the act of eating when Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. And, throughout the course of other Biblical stories, certain foods are spoken of that not only nourish the body, but act as elements of holiness (Gen. 18: 6-7). There are also dinners to close difficult covenants (Gen. 31:54), and even blackmail dinners, like when Jacob served his brother, Esau, a stew of red lentils, described as pottage, in exchange for his family inheritance (Gen. 25:30).

The ingredients most mentioned in the Bible are: figs, grenadine, fresh fish from the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean, dates, wheat, almonds, honey, laurel, coriander, saffron, mint, barley, sage, cumin, melon, grapes, goats, sesame, milk and cheese, bread with nuts, salt from the Dead Sea and even a bread called in Hebrew kikar, which is referred to as round bread and is believed to be a type of pita bread (Exodus 29:23).

Using food to solve problems is also mentioned. For example, when Abigail tried to resolve an argument between her husband, Nabal, and David. Abigail left in record time to buy wine, hundreds of loafs of bread, cakes with fig and meat she could make a diplomatic dinner, calm the situation and not lose her life nor her husband’s (Samuel 25:18).

In addition to different kinds of food, there is talk of fasting, sacrifices during Easter, and the symbolism behind many of these foods. For example, bread was called the kings' food and is mentioned as a main course, and the value of a woman who was busy making bread all day, even if she did not eat it, was also mentioned (Proverbs 31:27).

Throughout the Bible, olive oil is mentioned again and again. Fields of olive trees, their leaves, their fruits and the process of pressing the fruit are all described. Olive oil is even associated with elements of positivism, light, peace, joy and is even used as a remedy for health (Isaiah 1: 6, Luke 10:34).

Fortunately, wine is described as a beverage that makes life happy (Eccl 10:19) and gladdens the heart (Ps 104: 15). Israel has the blessing of having the same climate as Greece, Italy, France and California, so the quality of its wines, to this day, remains excellent. I’ve tried many that stole my heart, and among them is Dalton Estates of Galilee and Clos de Gat, from the region of Judea.

One of the best dinners I've had in my life was with the great Chef Moshe Basson at his restaurant, Eucalyptus, in Jerusalem. This passionate chef will make you experience all kinds of grand emotions through an exquisite tasting dinner inspired by foods from the Bible. His farm-to-table style restaurant was simply a memorable experience.

Jesus want us to learn that working the land, finding a good recipe with fresh products and sitting at the table and enjoying dinner are symbols of love and peace. #ILOVEISRAEL

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