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chicken braised with figs and apricots of first century judea

Chicken Braised with Figs and Apricots of First Century Judea

Ever wondered what the taste and culture of the First Century Holy Land is like? We’re talking the middle of the Fertile Crescent!

We’re talking the land of pre- and post-Jesus from where many of the major religious-cultural influences we know today arose from.

But before we share our epic recipe, let’s preface it with life in First Century Galilee:

‘Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that when people truly need it to live, the food they eat can lose cultural and religious meaning. They eat simply to stay alive. Wars and poverty were common during the first century. Excessive taxation caused many farmers to lose their land and livelihood. Social systems that guaranteed food for the poor began to fall apart. Eventually the ordinary people, the meaning of food shifted very easily and quickly from being an exalted symbol of life to being simply life sustaining. “ — Douglas E. Neel, Joel A. Pugh, The Food and feasts of Jesus

Its for that reason that many of the First Century AD people living in the Holy Land of Galilee ate simple food: lentils soup, yogurt cheese, and bread were staples. As were dried and fresh figs and apricots. When you’re trying to make gains (even though it’s a very luxurious activity) you still find ways to creatively reach your goals while on a budget.

Eating potatoes, canned tuna, veggie mixes, etc….Even using your fitness more aggressively by growing whatever food you can on your own… are all strategies people with un-ideal financial situations still managed to eat well for performance in their daily lives.

Yet even in these kinds of conditions, people still found ways to honor coming of age rituals, marriage rites, and other special occasions that demanded something a little extra.

Here’s a common special food for the wedding feast: Chicken braised with dried apricots and figs

What You’ll Need

8 large bone-in chicken thighs

1.5 teaspoons salt, or to taste ground pepper to taste

Flour for dredging

2 tablespoons olive oil

Half an onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chicken stock (or water)

1 cut white grape juice

1 cup dried figs

1 cup dried apricots

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon mustard

Now you might be thinking, what does a super fancy meal have anything to do with performance? What does it have to do with feeling well. Its rich. Its gross. No gains! Just diabetes?

You, who eat McDonalds, supersize your fries but follow it up with a diet coke. Not just once in a while, or even once a week. Every single day.

All the while our first century farmer or fisherman in Galilee would toil extra just so that his daughter could have a special feast for her wedding.

How you make it:

  1. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs and cover them in flour and then put them in a large hot skillet. (easy)
  2. When they browns take them out, and add the onions until its good and caramelized.
  3. Throw in the garlic and cook for another minute
  4. Add all the ingredients, including the chicken. (you’ll never find a recipe that says to do this….respect it)
  5. It’s going to be liquidity so boi it and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for forty to fourty five minutes
  6. Turn the thighs every so often and feel out with a wooden spoon or whatever your mixing with to see if the chicken is tender. It should easily be pulled from the bone,..
  7. Take off heat and let it hang out (closed lid) for another five minutes.
  8. Festivities begin.

You eat Chicken every day?…That’s cute

You eat chicken everyday? Right. But don’t really think much of how scarce it would have been to lose a chicken that provided eggs on a daily basis for a meager farmer trying to be on the lookout for future tension. I mean I would be too if a Roman occupation happened and there was civil war brewing. Taxation taking its toll, foreign merchants offering pagan sacrifices in front of synagogues, idolatry.

Culture clash means strapped for cash.

And the politics of business, especially if you’re working as a fishermen, make this complicated:

The socio-economic politics of fishermen in Galilee. Courtesy of K.C Hanson

But you still need to have a decent wedding dinner for your daughter. Even if your job is pretty much seasonal (farming or fishing).

So what do you do?

You save Ol’ Matilda, the family chicken, for the wedding feast and you make this apricot and figs meal.

Every day you work, on your small plot of land or your teeny weeny dinghy. Unlike your core muscles, the average fishermen of Galilee couldn’t just do some ab workouts and farmers carries to turn his dinghy-of-a-core into a warship.

In fact, while you may think you’re so badass doing farmers walks because they improve ‘posture’ our farmer is walking back and forth in his simple wool or linen tunic and leather sandals. He’s huffing away as he tills the fields for hours for his daughter’s wedding.

He’s not living in a well-plumbed building with fresh water like some of the REALLY elite that prospered in the Roman-turned province.

He’s making by in his small home of maybe a few rooms, with walls that are composed of stone and mud and a roof of branches and more mud.

He’s saving his chicken (although eat its eggs) while sustenance is from legumes and bread.

Maybe some fish if he’s a fisherman as well or uses his brother to help him out.

He’s just praying that taxes don’t kill him.

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