Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Israel's biblical diet

CULINARY ARCHAEOLOGY: Israel's Millenia-Old Biblical Diet. A new generation of academics and chefs are cooking with ancient grains and herbs, using ‘original recipes’, to help work through Israel’s long-unresolved legacy of trauma. (Shira Rubin, BBC).
Between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv lies a man-made Garden of Eden, dotted with imported Lebanese cedar trees, reconstructed olive and wine presses and reproduced ancient gardens of wild sage and edible flowers. But the nature reserve, known as Neot Kedumim, is more than just a recreation of the landscape of biblical times. Since the 1990s, Israel’s foremost food archaeologist Tova Dickstein has been cultivating it as an open-air laboratory to examine the millennia-old ‘biblical diet’ and the ingredients that are making a comeback in Israeli nouvelle cuisine.

This article has lots of details about biblical food and the history behind the modern Israeli diet. For example:
But Dickstein says that while hummus was compelling and convenient for the early Israeli narrative, because it tied an already-popular dish to the supposedly ancient Jewish tradition of hummus consumption, the Bible does not actually depict the ancient Israelites as hummus enthusiasts. She estimates that hummus in its current form was likely popularised during the Crusader period from 1099 to 1291 AD, as consequent Holy Land conquerors continued traditions of cultural exchange between the country’s many ethnic groups. But for her, correcting anachronisms, such as hummus’ exclusively Israeli origins, is not meant to change Israeli eating habits, but rather demonstrate their evolutions.

To make her case, Dickstein relies on the Hebrew Bible, a labyrinthine piece of literature teeming with ambiguity. To interpret the recipes, she cross-checks the Bible with modern people who are replicating or producing some version of the biblical diet. For example, Ezekiel bread features as a rare example of a biblical recipe, in the Book of Ezekiel. There, God instructs the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel: “Take you also to you wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make you bread thereof...”
In context, I think "Ezekiel bread" was a prophetic statement rather than a real recipe. At least I hope no one followed the original baking instructions.

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