Chef presents Biblical Cuisine program



Recipes from the biblical era have been lost in the sands of time, but foods available then are mentioned in the Bible.

Chef Rafi Hasid, a native of Israel who now lives in the United States, led a Biblical Cuisine cooking session during a recent program at the Jewish Community Center, 505 Gypsy Lane. Cooking was followed by a dinner and lecture. Arrangements were made by Eran and Elior Liss, emissaries from Israel.

Hasid owns Miriam’s restaurant, named for his mother; Wolf and Deer bar and Bergendean sandwich shop, all in Brooklyn, N.Y. He came to the United States 14 years ago and attended a French-oriented culinary school. He was acquainted with the Lisses, who asked him to present a Bible-themed cooking class.

A saying goes “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” but in this case the 20 or so cooks, who picked various work stations, made it the more the merrier. About 40 people attended the dinner and lecture.

“The Middle East is known for a variety of ingredients,” Hasid said. He added the region is known as a “trading crossroads” because of its proximity to Asia, Europe and Africa. Because of the location, Hasid noted, travelers brought spices into the region.

“People bartered for the ingredients,” he said. He added that spices used added so much flavor to the foods.

Hasid said wheat, barley, pomegranates, beans/legumes, honey, lamb and fish are among foods mentioned in scripture passages. “Foods in the Bible are mentioned, but there’s no real recipes,” he said. So the program focused on the “flavor” of foods and not specifics.

Hasid noted that meat was eaten but not as part of a daily diet; it was reserved for special occasions. Bread and vegetables would have been more readily a part of the diet during biblical times.

The chef pointed out that different equipment is used to prepare foods today but some of the age-old techniques remain. These include pickling, drying, curing and fermenting.

“Cooking is common sense,” Hasid said. “Do what you like and it will bring you joy.”

“I was definitely interested in the cuisine,” said Jackie Shorey, who was among the cooks. They all wore aprons with the words “How does Moses make tea? He brews it” along with JCC Cooking Class and August 2014.

Arthur Hopson said he “loves to cook” and “is interested in learning about foods from different cultures.”

Phyllis Echement said she appreciated “learning techniques” from a chef. “It was educational,” she said.

Stan Bard also said he “loves to cook,” so the theme of the program interested him.

During dinner conversation, it was noted that “kashruth” or rules of keeping kosher are in the Torah books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

A search on the Internet for “foods of the Bible” yields a plethora of information including biblical passages referring to spices, herbs, fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, grains, fish, fowl, meats, dairy, honey, olive oil and wine.

For example, from Exodus 3:8, “And I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey ...”

And from Deuteronomy 8:8, “A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey.”

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