Eating in Jerusalem in the Byzantine Period
Our major source of information about the kinds of food that were eaten in Jerusalem during the centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple is the Talmud, which provides a picture of day-to-day life until the fourth century. The unsuccessful Bar-Kochba uprising against the Romans in the second century CE had the effect of severely depleting the Jewish population and made normal life virtually impossible. Jerusalem became little more than a backwater, resulting in a return to ancient agricultural patterns and a sharp decline in importations of goods.
A variety of fruits were grown in the Land of Israel, including: pomegranates, peaches, almonds, nuts, apples, pears of various kinds, carobs, black strawberries, citrons, peanuts, and pistachio nuts. Legumes continued to constitute the food staples. Among them were ful (broad beans), vetches, sweet peas, beans, lentils, peas, lupines, and sesame. However, the main crops were still wheat, olives, and grapes.
The typical meal consisted of a slice of bread dipped in oil or vinegar, a dish of legumes (soup or gruel), and fruits, particularly figs. Vegetables, which had been widespread in the periods of plenty that had characterized the Second Temple period - radishes, cucumbers, or lettuce were now luxuries. The same was true of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. The custom of the Sabbath meal, which became a fixture in this period, reflects the memory of the splendid social occasions of past eras. But in this period the Sabbath meal was usually a small fish and a few vegetables.
See the recipe for Labaneh.
Source: The Jerusalem Mosaic. Copyright 1995 Hebrew University of Jerusalem -- All Rights Reserved.