Encyclopedia Judaica 1906
Foods By : Emil G. Hirsch Wilhelm Nowack Solomon Schechter Samuel Krauss
I. Vegetable Food:
II. Animal Food:
—In Talmudical Times:
Fruits and Vegetables.
—In the Middle Ages:
There are two main divisions of food, vegetable and animal.
I. Vegetable Food:
As among all the Oriental peoples, and as is the case even to-day among the fellaheen of Syria, vegetable food, and chiefly grain ("dagan"), occupied the first place in the diet of the Israelites.
Cereals: The most important of the cereals was wheat (hittah" or "hittim."). (For the earliest mode of preparing this, see Baking; Bread; Cookery; and comp. "Z. D. P. V." ix. 3.) The grains were at times reduced to grits ("geres"); hence the prescription that "'abib ?alui" and "geres karmel"—probably "geres" of garden grains, which are palatable and mature especially early—should be offered as "minhat bikkurim." The grain was generally ground into flour ("kemah"), the fine flour ("solet") being distinguished from the ordinary kind. The flour was made into bread, either without leaven ("mazzah") or with it ("lehem"; Lev. vii. 13). Barley ("se'orim") was used like wheat (comp. II Sam. xvii. 28), being generally made into bread (comp. Judges vii. 13; II Kings iv. 42; Ezek. iv. 9, 12). Spelt ("kussemet") was apparently used much less than wheat or barley. It appears, however, from Ezek. iv. 9 that, besides millet, spelt also was made into bread.
Vegetables ("yarak," because raised in the "gan ha-yarak" or garden; also "'eseb"; "orah," I Kings iv. 39; or "zer'onim," Dan. i. 16): Lentils ("'adashim") were the principal vegetable, which many considered especially toothsome (comp. Gen. xxv. 29 et seq.) There were several kinds of beans ("pol"); two kinds are known at present in Syria, the Egyptian and the South-European (comp. "Z. D. P. V." ix. 4). Beans were occasionally made into bread.
Cucumbers were manifestly also much used; even to-day the poorer inhabitants in the large cities of the East, as Damascus and Cairo, live largely on bread and cucumbers or melons. Cucumbers ("kishshu'im"; Num. xi. 25) are generally eaten raw, and made into a salad with vinegar. The popular watermelon ("abattia?"; Num. xi. 5; to-day called "battikh") also belongs to the cucumber species.
Num. xi. 5 mentions leeks ("hazir," which were especially esteemed in Egypt), onions ("be?alim"), and garlic ("shumim"), all belonging to the Allium genus. They were generally eaten raw with bread. To-day in Syria ripe onion-bulbs are pickled like cucumbers and eaten as a relish with meat (comp. "Z. D. P. V." ix. 14). From Job xxx. 4 it is clear that the poor also used orach ("mallua?"), the young leaves being either boiled or eaten raw.