Satisfying spiritual hunger

By  Br. John Frampton, OFM CAP, Catholic Register Special
  • October 30, 2006
Cooking with the BibleThe Bible is often looked on as the “good book” or the “holy book.” It is indeed fundamental to one’s spiritual growth. What a surprise it was to be able to connect this essential ingredient in a spiritual life to being physically fed. We often use the Bible for prayer and meditation. Only lately was I able to view it in a different light — a new perspective.

As a friar and cook I was fascinated with Cooking with the Bible. The use of food and meals in the biblical stories had been taken for granted by most of us. Through the imagination of these authors, I felt a new hunger while reading this book.

The information regarding biblical foods and feasts made me realize that there is another way of relating to stories handed down in the good book. For the reader, it’s an adventure every time the connection is made between events in Scripture and the food that pops up in the stories. We learn about meal preparation in biblical times, when cooks didn’t have the conveniences of so many of our kitchens today. These preparations were long and tedious. Yet when meals were served they were truly enjoyed and appreciated.

The menus included in Cooking with the Bible are tastes to  savour. The descriptions of food arouse the senses, and the authors try to duplicate ancient recipes with modern ingredients. The effect is to bring on a new thirsting — a longing to reconnect with biblical figures. Abigail, King David, Elisha and Jesus all shared meals with others. The Passover is just one meal that broadens one’s mind about custom, tradition, service and celebration. This book contains many other meals that serve as fine examples of what is important in life.

Beef, pork, fish and fowl all have their place in meals from biblical times. Vegetables and rice were staples, and reliance on all or some of the ingredients mentioned in biblical stories would dictate the amount of work put into each meal. There are specific foods from different parts of the world which are particular to various feasts that were celebrated. This cookbook shows us how customs and traditions have not changed much as we plan festive occasions even today.

The lore of various foods and drinks described in this book is fascinating. So much knowledge about each ingredient is explained in terms of availability and importance to specific meals. Cooking with the Bible takes very seriously that old saw that “we are what we eat.” The authors relate the spiritual to the physical in terms of food.

I minister at St. Francis’ Table, a restaurant for the poor in Toronto. I know about the spiritual hunger our world has. I also know about the physical hunger so evident on our streets. As I read this book, I was constantly reminded that when we feed others we must be able to see the face of Christ in one another.

We all hunger from time to time. Our hunger is satisfied only when we are provided with the food we need. There is still a thirst for life-giving water. We rely on others to quench that thirst. The Bible speaks about food and drink and the importance both hold in our growth, not only as humans but as followers of Christ.

At St. Francis’ Table meals are prepared by helping hands. They are served by people who care, and they are enjoyed by people who appreciate our ministry of feeding the hungry. We rely on donors and volunteers who keep us as a vital link to those who hunger, a real necessity for people of all religions, classes, cultures, races and ages. Our meals are as diverse as those we serve.

Cooking with the Bible is a must read for any kitchen. Authors Anthony F. Chiffolo and Rayner W. Hesse Jr. put not only a great deal of imagination into this book, they energize the need to get in touch with the spirituality found in the Bible through food and feasts. Not only are there culinary challenges found in their writing, but each chapter is food for thought. It’s a whole new way to look at the Bible.

(Frampton of the Capuchin Franciscan friars is animator and a cook at St. Francis’ Table in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.)

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.