The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Christmas past and present

Keep it Spicy

 

We will compare today's Christmas meal with the celebratory feast that Christ and his loved ones might have eaten. It will be interesting to see the comparative use of herbs and spices as well as the foods and preparation techniques.

Pretend it is 25AD and you are in Israel about to attend a festive meal where Jesus is the honored guest. Since the host is wealthy you will enjoy a great variety of foods. Servants are the doers of the meal. Breads are made from wheat. The unleavened is fried while the leavened is baked in a brick oven. Sorry, no packaged yeast so starters are maintained. Adding fruit, jelly and honey to the bread will provide the dessert. The meat course includes lamb, goat and fish prepared in a brick oven or stewed. A variety of fruits include pomegranate, figs, melons, apples, pears, grapes, raisins and currants. I wonder if they paired the fruits with the cheeses and curds they made from goats and sheep milk. Cows are scarce, expensive and used mostly for field work, not milking. Some of the vegetables prepared are greens, onions, garlic, radishes, legumes, carrots, and olives. The herbs and spices used to season these foods include cumin, cinnamon, anise, sage, rosemary, mustard, black pepper, cloves, bitter herbs and dandelions. Wine, goat's milk and water are the drinks of the day.

Those who are less fortunate will extend these foods by making soups, stews and gruels. These foods will contain grains, onions, dried fish, herbs, spices and bits of meat. They are frugal eaters. Food is scarce, seasonal, costly and preparation is difficult and time consuming. No convenience tools like a kitchen aid! Bread from barley was their basic food and ground between mill stones.

The present day Christmas meal ideas and recipes in this column are from our readers. Let us see how they compare with the Biblical menus. Shirley Motter shares her bread recipe (see on page 11) and the one with the cinnamon-raisin filling is reminiscent of the ingredients available for the original Christmas feast . Keep in mind that the wealthy of that time had access to butter and white sugar. They would have had to use a starter rather than packaged yeast. Do you remember the Herman Sourdough Starter? We used it to prepare the Amish friendship bread we shared in the 70s. Maybe the ancients enjoyed that same gifting opportunity.

Roberta Cometa's recipes for meat and fish rubs have a unique back story you will enjoy (see below). These ingredients were not all available at the time of Jesus but a version of this seasoning technique surely was. Kay Cordes offers a delicious cultural recipe for dessert that requires a special griddle (see on page 23). Ancients may not have had this particular tool but they did fry desserts.

I hope I have provided an insight into the foods, preparation and hospitality of Biblical times. Like today they are all essential to a happy Christmas Feast. May you and your loved ones enjoy, be blessed and mindful this special time of year.

This vegetable bake is one I savor and think a version likely in Biblical times. It includes vinegar, herbs and olive oil. These are all ingredients that they had available.

Roasted Vegetable Medley

Ingredients:

• Six cups of chunked vegetables – your choice (onions, potatoes, carrots, yams, squash, parsnips, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet peppers)

• 5 Tbsp olive oil • 1 Tbsp butter • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

• 1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried of each thyme, sage, and rosemary. Other favorite herb?

• Salt and pepper to taste

Bake covered at 350 for half an hour.

Uncover and bake until cooked and brown to your liking.

 
 

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