Food and the bible. They go together like -- oil and water? Or are they more entangled than that? Probably the latter - and if you are not convinced, just think of all those biblical verses and stories that include food. Jews, Christians and all influences by the texts associated with the two religions know many of these. But I never thought of cucumbers and the bible in one thought until. . . just now. (For the relevant citation, click here. Bread, yes. Wine, yes. Milk and honey, yes. Olive (branches) and fish. But there is more to all this than I knew -- and yes, the book I am reviewing here does point to cucumbers.
The Garden of Eden Cookbook by Devorah Wigoder, is subtitled "recipes in the biblical tradition." It was originally published in 1988. I received it as a gift in 2010 -- purchased in a lovely used bookstore in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. And it is swell. It includes recipes, yes. But it includes a lot more.
Perhaps, for me, the most startling thing is the author's relation to Judaism. It is not that she is a convert. Rather it is that she converted "in order to replace one of the Jews lost to the Holocaust." That's her reason and she sticks to it -- this former Irish Catholic who is now, I suppose, an Irish Jew, residing in Israel as a early proponent of Zionism and an early settler. Indeed, she moved to Israel shortly after WW II. And, in this somewhat unfamiliar to her land (at least at the time) she decided to garden, and to do it in biblical ways, raising biblical foods. These included pulses and herbs, leafy greens and grains, and lots more. So, she includes information about biblical mentions of the various foods, tales of her garden, and more. The pottage of Jacob and Esau. The olive branch of Noah. The spiced wines of the Song of Songs. The vineyards of the Lord. Lentils and more. Figs -- and fig leaves (a la Adam and Eve.) Date palms.
It is, indeed, a readable book. In many ways, the narrative is fascinating -- you get a sense of how she worked with and against the elements as she created the garden itself. The book is, thus, an intriguing balance between a sort of narrative voice that invites you in to the author's world of children and gardening and cooking, recipes, and of education/trivia.
For a review from booklist, click here.
For a piece by WIgoder called "The Biblical Spice Rack," click here.