Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Food at the Time of the Bible

book cover

Food at the Time of the Bible:
From Adam's Apple to the Last Supper
by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

ISBN: 965-280-115-1
Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: Palphot Ltd.
Released: December 16, 2007

Source: Checked out of my local library.

Book Description from Goodreads (modified):
What did people eat at the time of the Bible? How did they grow their food, store it, and prepare it? What are the symbolic meanings behind various foods? This is an easy-to-read survey of every aspect of food in the Bible, accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photographs. The book examines each type of food, starting with the seven species that grow in the Holy Land, and continues with fish, meat and milk, fruit, vegetables and sweets. At the end of the book is a section on recipes which could have been prepared in ancient times.

My Review:
Food at the Time of the Bible is a Bible background book focusing on food and eating. It had nice full-color pictures and illustrations of the various foods, animals, and harvest & storage methods mentioned in the text. The author used the Bible, the Mishnah and Talmud (oral law), and archaeological findings to describe what people ate during Bible times (especially in Jesus' lifetime). There were 11 recipes in the text which used Bible verses to provide the ingredients while the author filled in the missing amounts. At the end of the book, there were an additional 36 recipes (from bread to sweets) also based on Bible or Mishnah cooking descriptions. They allow you to sample what the food was like back then.

The topics were covered with some detail--probably with as much detail as is available. Still, me being me, I would have liked to know even more. The topics covered were dining customs; grain & bread; grapes, wine, vinegar, & beer; olives & olive oil; fruits (dates, figs, pomegranates, carobs, citron, walnuts, almonds, peaches, apples, plums, apricots, & caper); vegetables; fish; (livestock) meat; milk, cheese, & other milk products; sweets (honey, etc.); herbs & spices; storing & preserving food; the last supper; and biblical measures & food costs.

The book was easy to read and interesting, and I would recommend it. However, I was disappointed that the author placed archeology (human interpretation) over the Bible. She used a timeline that went back past 6000 BC, said things like "some people say that humans didn't used to eat meat based on Genesis 1 & 2" like she thought humans have always eaten meat, and twice said that Jericho is "the world's oldest city."

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter Two
The Hebrew Scriptures contain numerous references to meals, both simple and sumptuous. The Bible relates that when the Queen of Sheba--apparently no pauper herself according to the entourage she brought with her--saw the food on the king's table, "she was overwhelmed" (1 Kings 10:5). No wonder, for 1 Kings 4:22-23 tells us that, "Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl."

The simplest meal in the Bible is perhaps the bread and water consumed by the "man of God from Judah" in Kings 13:19.

A simple peasant's meal is amply illustrated by the menu at the first "lunch date" of Ruth and Boaz, bread dipped in wine vinegar and toasted grain (Ruth 2:14), all of which could be easily transported to the fields and consumed on a break in the farmer's workday.

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