Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Food and the Bible, part I

I just got back from picking up salad mix and broccoli at the Path to Freedom home. The "yard" or rather, garden, is beautiful. It's sunny and warm today. Butterflies were fluttering amongst the blooming plants. Their two cats were prancing around, chasing the butterflies and bumble bees, climbing the peach tree, and utterly enjoying the beautiful weather and garden.

Meeting the Path to Freedom family has prompted me to remember my growing up years in Zambia. I used to go with my mother early in the morning through the tall, wet grass to the hospital market where we bought extra produce that was grown in the hospital gardens to feed the patients. My parents also had gardens at our house. One was below the house by perpetual springs. The soil was very dark. Not far away you could hear the thumping of the mechanical rams that pumped water from the springs up to a holding tank, from which it was piped to houses.

The other garden was above the house. We also had lots of fruit trees: avocado; papaya; mulberry; tangerine; lemon; navel orange; guava; mango.

When I was very young, we kept chickens. However, the chickens attracted poisonous snakes, and my mother was afraid I'd get bitten. Even without the chickens, you still had to watch out for snakes. One of my favorite stories about my young sister and our dog, Cleo, who followed her everywhere, is about the time she was picking fruit (mulberries?). Suddenly Cleo dived into the bushes next to her feet, pulled out a puff adder, and tossed it into the air. Somebody who was nearby quickly killed it. Cleo was very protective of my sister. Whenever my mother wanted to know where my sister was, she would just call the dog, and from where ever the dog would come, she would know my sister was there.

Which brings me to the subject of food and the Bible. In traditional Christian theology, food isn't exactly a topic of much concern. However, it is a topic of great concern in the Bible, especially the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament). I'm just beginning to ferret out studies that focus on food. I'm fortunate to be working with a professor who has paid attention to the subject of food and, more broadly, the environment or nature in the Hebrew Bible. (He has a garden in his back yard you can see from his study.) The start of a bibliography is in the next post.

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