Jim Campbell, DMin, explores the diet of Holy Land residents and describes what it would have been like to dine with Jesus. – In the Holy Land, a variety of foods were available. Principal crops included wheat, barley, olives, and grapes; lentils, fava beans, and chickpeas; and onions, leeks, and garlic.
Fruits such as olives, grapes, date palms, apples, watermelon, pomegranates, figs, and sycamores made life sweeter (a low-quality fig eaten mainly by the poor). In addition to raising sheep, goats, and cattle, the people fished in the Mediterranean and Sea of Galilee. The primary beverage was wine made from grapes.
Every morning began with a light breakfast of bread or fruit. Every day, the mother kneaded and baked bread as one of her primary responsibilities. People in the Holy Land consumed a light lunch of bread, grain, olives, and figs at midday. The main meal was consumed in the evening.
Dinner was a stew from a single pot served in a communal bowl. Bread was used as a spoon to consume the stew. The stew could consist of a thick porridge of vegetables, lentils, or chickpeas with herbs. Fish was served more frequently than meat, especially when the family had an important guest. The wealthy kept lambs and calves in stalls so that they could be fattened for feasting (Luke 15: 23–30).
Every meal was a sacred occasion where the presence of God was anticipated and welcomed. The people understood that although they had earned their daily sustenance, God provided them with everything they had. Always, fellowship during a meal was fellowship before God.