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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

Though meat was not consumed in large quantities


style="text-align: justify;"> THE ANCIENT JEWS.

Readers will find recorded in this chapter many things which are matters of general knowledge, but this, they will readily understand, is unavoidable when treating on the customs of so well known a people as the Jews and drawing on the Bible for much of the information given. As the facts drawn from the Scriptures have though been supplemented by the results of the researches of many eminent travelers and writers, it is hoped that the combination will be found worthy of the time expended on its perusal.

The Mosaic dietary laws which for more than three thousand years formed the text of important social and religious observances among the inhabitants of the chosen kingdom were the outcome of a comparison of the regulations and practices of contemporary nations. Whether the system was compiled in the interest of humanity or health, it remains true that it has proved itself to be one of the best economic regimes ever made public. If for no other reason, the life of the ancient Jew is especially interesting to those who study the foods of men, past and present--although it must be admitted that the precepts they compiled were more conducive to sound digestion than some of the practices they followed!

The diet of the ancient Jews consisted at first, as did that of all the pioneers of the human race, of but a few articles of food.

But, though meat was not consumed in large quantities, writers err when they describe the food of Orientals as being light and simple. Orientals did, and do, make use of an inordinate amount of grease in cooking. Eggs and rice were, whenever circumstances permitted, saturated with fat or oil and meats and vegetables were frequently simmered in fat before being stewed. It was not unusual for a family of six or seven persons to consume an average of two hundred pounds a year, and some of their compounds would have ill suited delicate stomachs.

Bread, as in all ancient countries, constituted the greater part of the food of the middle and lower classes. In Leviticus, Psalms and Ezekiel, reference is made to the "staff of bread." It was most generally eaten after being dipped into cheap wine or weak gravy.

The fresh green ears of wheat were often eaten without cooking, the husks being rubbed off by hand. The grain was, though, more usually roasted in a pan after being carefully sorted over, and it was sometimes bruised and dried in the sun, to be afterwards served with oil.

"Kibbe" was a mixture composed of cracked wheat, boiled and dried, beaten up with meat, onions, spices and the nut of a species of pine.

Wheat was also ground by women in hand mills formed of two stones, the under one fixed and the upper movable.

The middle classes ate meat, vegetables, fruit or fish also, but always as supplementary dishes to the staple article, bread.


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