ANCIENT KITCHEN - WHAT PEOPLE ATE
Reconstruction of a house interior, showing cooking and storage area
To be truthful, there was not enough space in a villager's house for a kitchen as large as this. The kitchen above would have been found in one of the richer houses of the period - not in a simple little village like Nazareth.
The house of Mary and Joseph's family had a simpler cooking area, perhaps a circle of stones with a fire at the center, or a small bread oven. It was in the main room of the house - along with the sleeping and eating areas.
Meals were simple but wholesome. Bread, usually barley bread, was a feature of every meal, and women made it as often as needed. In summer, they probably baked several days' supply at a time, to cut down on the discomfort caused by the heat of their oven.
Grain for bread was ground by the women on two grinding stones, the lower one fixed, the upper one rotating. The grain was mixed with water, and then fermented dough, kept for this purpose, was kneaded into the dough, which was left to rise.
Then the thin, flat circles of dough were slapped onto the hot stones in the fire, or placed in a bread oven if they family had one.
The main meal was eaten in the evening. It might consist of a lentil stew seasoned with herbs like cumin, black cumin or coriander. It was served with cheese made from sheep or goats' milk, olives, onions and bread.
Fruits included fresh figs and melon, as well as dried pomegranates and dates - dried fruits were a staple item in the Middle East. Wine, water and curdled milk, similar to liquid yogurt, accompanied the meal.
Sugar? Unheard of, so most people had healthy teeth. Honey was used as a sweetener, but only occasionally.
Meat was a rarity, kept for special occasions.
Fish was much more common, and the dried fish industry was an important source of wealth for the people around the Sea of Galilee.
The town of Magdala, not far from Nazareth, was a center of the dried fish industry, and Mary Magdalene may have earned her money from dried fish rather than prostitution - see Did Jesus Marry Mary Magdalene?
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