On my grandfather’s casket was a decorative arrangement of wheat. After he was buried we were all given a stem from it to remind us that he was where we had come from, that we were now the vehicles of life and our destiny is death. Then we all went and had dinner.
If the history of the East is rice, the history of the Judea-Islamic-Christian worlds is wheat. Wheat is grown in many places, but it was a defining food in the development of Middle Eastern and Southern European religions. From Egypt to Iraq, to Greece and to Russia, it was paramount. Inari, Isis, niu-ola-hiki, Iyatiku, Purusha, Chicomecoatl, Jesus- these are all death and resurrection deities. Like Maize in the Americas, Coconuts in the Pacific and rice in the East, the symbol of gods for the fertile crescent and surrounds was – you guessed it- wheat.
From http://www.enotes.com: In Hebrew “Bethlehem” means ‘house of bread’…. In the Old Testament the Eternal sends manna to the Hebrews when they are crossing the desert (Exodus). Manna symbolizes bread and prefigures the Christian Eucharist. It is a sign of the generosity of God toward humankind. Jewish matzoh is an unleavened bread that is eaten to commemorate this event. In the Roman Catholic faith, unleavened bread is used to prepare the hosts for the Eucharist.
From http://www.agron.iastate.edu: Wheat is believed to have originated in south-west Asia. Some of the earliest remains of the crop have been found in Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. Primitive relatives of present day wheat have been discovered in some of the oldest excavations of the world in eastern Iraq, which date back 9,000 years. Other archeological findings show that bread wheat was grown in the Nile Valley about 5,000 B.C. as well as in India, China, and even England at about the same time.
Like most cultivated crops, wheat is also symbolic of civilization. Around fields towns were created, cities grew, time was recorded and history was made. When I say that food is important to human relationships, to social structure, to religion and mythology and to learning, I am not just speaking metaphorically. The history and future of our food is the history and future of us.
Basic Dough from the Church of the Japanese Martyrs 125th Anniversary Cookbook
- 61/2 to 7 cups flour
- 1/2 cup lard
- 1/2 sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup dry milk
- 3 tsp. salt
- 2 cups warm water
- 2pkgs. dry yeast
There is really too much to write about when it comes to food symbolism and mythology. The link below is an interesting article on wheat.
“If that vital spark that we find in a grain of wheat can pass unchanged through countless deaths and resurrections, will the spirit of man be unable to pass from this body to another?” – William Jennings Bryan
“Eaters of Wonder Bread
Must be underbred.
So little to eat.
Where’s the wheat?”
― Roy Blount Jr., Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory