A land of wheat, and barley, and vines,
and fig trees, and pomegranates;
a land of oil olive and honey.
What did the people of the Bible actually eat? This query might have aroused only passing interest in most people, but to Kitty Morse-native of Morocco and author of seven cookbooks-it was a fascinating question. Her search for answers began in the Bible and resulted in her new cookbook, A Biblical Feast: Foods from the Holy Land.
Morse found that food, drink, and communal meals were so essential to physical life in the ancient Mediterranean that the authors of the Scriptures employed them in symbolic ways to convey ideas of spiritual life, growth, and sense of religious community. "Food is often used allegorically in the Bible to transmit a spiritual message," Morse writes, "The universally known example is Jesus' offering of bread and wine, symbolizing His body and blood, at the Last Supper." While this symbolism is spiritually moving, it is grounded in real day-to-day nourishment of the body.
In A Biblical Feast, Morse presents a fascinating overview of what the peoples of Scripture ate and why. She includes descriptions of the 84 primary foods mentioned in the King James Bible. While a few of these ingredients may not figure in contemporary diets-locusts, pygarg (probably a species of gazelle), and manna (three kinds are described)-many are frequently used in today's kitchens: fish, poultry, lentils, garlic, leeks, almonds, and honey.
The ancient Hebrews usually began their day with a light breakfast consisting of milk, a piece of bread, and perhaps butter or cheese. They ate their main meal in the evening. Supper may have begun with something pickled in brine or vinegar to stimulate the appetite. This was followed by a simple pottage, or a stew of seasonal herbs and garden vegetables, thickened with whole gram or gram meal.
Morse writes her cookbook in a similarly straightforward fashion. She divides the recipes in A Biblical Feast into four sections, including:
Morse also includes helpful techniques for such things as preparing fava beans and seeding pomegranates. Just in case the reader runs short of appropriate beans, nuts, spices, or good olive oil, she lists nineteen sources for specialty ingredients.
With A Biblical Feast, Morse provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of an ancient peoples whose profound spiritual legacy still lives with us today.
A Biblical Feast
Foods from the Holy Land
By Kitty Morse
Ten Speed Press
Hand-tinted polaroid transfer photos
Includes bibliography and index
Information provided by the publisher.
This page created December 1998
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