‘Real Eating:’ A Medieval Spanish Jewish View of Gastronomic Authenticity
Brumberg-Kraus, Jonathan (Wheaton College, Massachusetts)
2005 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery
In medieval Jewish sources on gastronomy, the authenticity of what or how one eats and drinks is treated primarily as a philosophical and theological issue rather than an aesthetic one. And yet, my consideration of one important term for authentic eating in these sources, akhilah vada’it, ‘real eating,’ raises many of the same sorts of questions about the nature of authenticity that other papers in this year symposium do, even those concerned primarily with modern and post-modern gastronomy –though it may answer them quite differently.
So what makes eating ‘authentic’? If we turn to the rabbinic commentaries on the Torah, the midrashim which refer to akhilah vadait, or to the discussions of it in medieval Jewish mystical texts like the Zohar and Rabbenu Bahya ben Asher ben Hlava’s Shulhan Shel Arba’, the particular text upon which I will focus, these are the questions they pose.