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Food from the Bible

Zubin D’souza

I am not a great reader of the Bible. I may be a follower and a devout Catholic but bible reading doesn’t come easy to me.

I however can retain and recollect stories quite easily.

The Bible is meant to cleanse the spirit and nourish the soul; recipe hunting is definitely not the prerogative here so we must contend ourselves with the few foods mentioned within.

Obviously many are familiar with the story of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve end up listening to a serpent, disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.

Although popular art and literature have long held the fruit to be an apple, the Bible doesn’t describe the fruit which has left others to interpret the fruit to be a fig.

Personally I think that Adam and Eve were entitled to the fruit  because if they had even an ounce of grey matter, they would have realised that listening to a slithery serpent is definitely not going to end well.

The Last Supper is also rather famous because of the iconography in which a certain Vinci played a stellar role. Although not really visible, the Passover meal consisted of unleavened bread and wine. The wine is speculated to have been made from the Armenian Dabouki grape which is fortified with frankincense and myrrh along with honey and dried fruits. Labneh or yoghurt drizzled with honey as well as olives macerated with hyssop would have been at the table.

Passover meals are really big in the Bible!

When the Jews were fleeing slavery in Egypt, they ensured that they prepared their Passover meal before they left.

Since they were in a hurry, they did not add yeast to the bread inadvertently making unleavened bread a necessary part of the celebration for the generations to come.

While in the desert and in search for the Promised Land the Jews were at a point where their food and water were running really low. They turned to prayer and were blessed with a white wafer like substance that they referred to as ‘manna’ or bread from heaven!

Of all the prophets that preached in the desert, St John the Baptist is often a personal favourite.

He derived his moniker because he used to baptise people in the faith.

He was a vociferous preacher who lived in the desert and who heralded the coming of Christ. There isn’t too much of his short and tragic life but there are mentions of his diet.

While he was in the desert, he subsisted on a diet of locusts and wild honey.

I was forever intrigued by this passing reference. How could a man expend as much energy as St John and live on just some tiny creatures?

It was only after I spent a little time in the interiors of Oman did I truly realise what a powerhouse of protein these tiny creatures possessed!

I saw a young boy darting about from shrub to shrub trying to trap these swift and flighty insects. I pointed out a couple to him that his young eyes had missed seeing. As a reward, he offered a handful for my own consumption.

Not wanting to insult my young Arabic host, I bit into one with my eyes shut and fearing the worst!

I was pleasantly jostled out of my comfort zone!

The taste of the raw insect minus the legs and wings was creamy, smooth and had the luxurious feel of egg yolks.

In the gospel of St Matthew, Jesus asks Peter to go fishing in the Galilee River where he would find a fish with a shekel in its mouth which Peter can use to pay the requisite port taxes.

Peter fished, got the coin, paid the taxes and the fish which is a version of the tilapia has been making restaurateurs rich ever since.

The fish has been dubbed St Peter’s fish and it is always ordered by the faithful who flock to Galilee as part of their pilgrimage tour. The fact that the original stock was almost depleted and had to be refilled by farmed fish is lost on everyone and the service just goes on.

This wasn’t the first miracle attributed to Jesus; in fact his first was turning water into wine.

Another food related miracle was when he multiplied five loaves and two fish and managed to feed a crowd of over 5,000 who had come in to listen to him preach!

The Bible usually has very limited and random references to food. There are herbs like coriander, mint and dill; spices like anise and cinnamon; fruits like melons and pomegranate; beans, lentils, barley, corn and fish.

They all come in at different parts of the Bible although none of them are meant to be as nourishing as their symbolism!

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