When GlobalChefs asked me to write about biblical foods, my first inclination was to divert it from biblical times to food of the cradle of civilization in the time of Christ. But, honestly, you really cannot complete a comprehensive story on the topic with out using the Bible as a source of information. When Jesus is building his flock, the Roman Empire is in full swing. Augustus Caesar is on the thrown, directing Harrod in Jerusalem. The Romans and Egyptians throw and attend extravagant banquets with varieties of birds including turkey and peacock. Seafood such as Lobsters, finfish, oysters, mussels and clams. There are a quarter million roman subjects who are poor enough to receive free grain. Marcus Gavius Apicius, the first recorded practitioner of gastronomy, is in the kitchen, and the Han dynasty legacy to Asian cookery, the mien noodle, is created of the finest flour.
Seven fruits of the land of Israel according to Deuteronomy 8:8 are wheat, barley, figs, pomegranate, olive, and honey. But Jerusalem is a thriving city. The markets are filled with booths and carts that contain lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cardoons, artichoke, squash, radish, peas, okra, fava beans, chickpeas and lentils. To the fruit on the list you can add dates, grapes, raisins, melons and citrus fruits. Bulghur and semolina can be added to the grains, and pistachios, walnuts, and almonds are frequently used nutmeats.
There are also places in the market to purchase milk and milk products, cheese and butter. Olive oil and pickles are sold in stalls and even prepared food stands serving grilled meats and fried fish line the thin streets of Jerusalem.
At this time a woman's daily job includes the preparing of food. They would grind grain, make bread, milk animals and make cheese. It would be typical to have two meals per day. Breakfast, which was a small amount of food often taken to work, and dinner, the large meal of the day to include cheese, wine, fruit, and eggs. The "meat" would actually be primarily fish and poultry. Red meat would be part of a special occasion meal.
Most foods were boiled or stewed in a big pot and might be seasoned with onion and garlic, and herbs and spices such as cumin, coriander, mint, dill and mustard. Vinegar was prevalent, so pickles of all kinds were commonplace, and foods were sweetened with honey and syrups made from fruits. In most homes the dishes were served in a common bowl and diners ate by dipping in with their fingers.
Jesus was a Jew and followed the rules of kosher cuisine. While Canaan is the land of milk and honey, records of Jewish cuisine go back to Babylon with references of Abel eating the meat of his favorite goat and that of the Egyptian Jews inventing Matzoh, the unleavened bread, in order to sustain them on their trip west. The Last Supper was the Passover meal, which commemorates the Jews escaping Egypt to the promised land.
There were four rules that must be adhered to for this meal.
1. Blood from a lamb must be placed over the door lintel.
2. Lamb must be eaten
3. All participants must be fully clothed, in order to run
4. Matzoth or unleavened bread is eaten.
There are a few other rules that must be followed as well. Jews are not permitted to eat the meat of any creatures without hooves or hooves that split feet, i.e. pigs, birds, bats, or rodents. Jews are not permitted to eat any meat that has been cooked with blood or any meat with blood still in it. They are not permitted to eat the meat of any creature that has been offered as a sacrifice. And while fish is a very common food, shellfish of any kind is prohibited. A kosher butcher with a special technique that bleeds the animals out must butcher meats. And no meat or dairy product may be prepared or served together. Consequently, orthodox kosher families will often divide their kitchen: one area for meat and one for dairy, not sharing bowls, pots, utensils or plates between them.
I was not the least little bit surprised to find that when I went looking for information on food in the Holy Land in the time of Christ that there was already a book on the subject, What would Jesus Eat, by Dr. Don Colbert. The only thing that I really have to say on that note is that Jesus did practice a kosher diet, ate a lot of living foods, very little meat and got a great deal of exercise. Now, I don’t know if it will get you into heaven, but if you were to eat like Jesus you might have a little more time on earth.
Written By: Tres Hundertmark