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The Food and Feasts of Jesus
Inside the World of First Century Fare, with Menus and Recipes
By Douglas E. Neel and Joel A. Pugh

Book Excerpt:
How to Eat a First-Century Dinner with Your Family

Set the table with all of the food at once. Choose one of the dining postures mentioned above, including reclining or sitting on the floor. Because the first-century household was both large and diverse, try to share this meal with friends and neighbors. It is authentic if they eat from several common bowls, though your guests may prefer to have their own plate and a soup bowl. Eating utensils can be optional for you. Place them on the table, or wait to offer spoons only after your guests notice the absence of flatware. A rule: do not run out of bread. Napkins were not an option; nor were plates. We are truly the product of a more refined time. We want our private space and our own food. And we are concerned with cleanliness and germs. Your table will be covered with bowls of food. This may be an everyday meal, but it is a delicious and abundant everyday meal. Remind your group that day laborers might have eaten the soup, bread, and little else.

The host should start the meal with this simple prayer while holding a loaf of the bread:

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth. (Amen)

You may then add an additional prayer of thanksgiving for the meal and the occasion of fellowship. After the prayer, tear the loaf of bread in half and pass the pieces around the table. Family and guests should tear their first piece of bread from this one loaf. The symbolism of sharing and community should be obvious to everyone. Broken bread represents a meal that will be shared. Then the meal begins. We recommend that you do not serve dessert at this meal; though, if possible, seasonal fruit can be served.

It is appropriate to serve wine, water, or milk with the meal. Coffee and tea were still many centuries away from arriving to the Mediterranean countries. Iced beverages were still unknown in much of the world; only the Emperor and a few extremely rich and powerful Romans had occasional access to ice in the first century. Many Gentiles drank beer, but our research shows that the Jews did not.

Menu for a Daily Meal with Family

  • Mediterranean Grain Bread*
  • Feta cheese (from the market)
  • Yogurt* (two recipes or from the market)
  • Yogurt Cheese*
  • Soft Cheese* (this recipe or from the market)
  • Hummus*
  • Bowls of Olives and Raisins* (olives in chapter 4; raisins in chapter 7 or from the market)
  • Pickled Onions*
  • Cucumber and Cheese Salad*
  • Lentil and Chickpea Soup*
  • First-Century Chicken Stock*
  • Fresh or dried fruit (from the market)
  • Excerpted from The Food and Feasts of Jesus with permission of the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.