By Andrew Jotischky
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Additional resources for A Hermit's Cookbook: Monks, Food and Fasting in the Middle Ages
Add a few chopped almonds or pine nuts and a small handful of parsley or coriander. Check that the leaves and shoots in your stew, which will have reduced in volume, are tender. The length of time this will take will vary depending on the quantity and the varieties of leaves in your pot. Add salt and the crushed mixture in your mortar. Eat with ﬂat bread, or thicken with boiled tree bark [see Chapter 3]. what they ﬁnd growing around them in the wild. Writing in about AD 425, the historian Sozomen mentioned hermits taking sickles up to the mountains so that they could cut themselves plants for food, like animals at pasture.
I shall return to the question of Onuphrios’ dates further on in the book. Just as we cannot assume that the author of the story was using rhetorical licence, nor can we reject such details out of hand. We may, for example, be sceptical about the practice attributed in an anonymous text known as the Paradise of the Fathers to Abba Isaiah, who allegedly used to take the saucepan off the ﬁre just as the lentils were starting to boil, saying that just to see the ﬁre cooking the food was sustenance enough.
Jerome, in his Life of Hilarion, was very precise about the kinds and quantities of food the hermit supposedly ate. Between the ages of 20 and 26, for the ﬁrst three years, he ate a daily ration of lentils soaked in cold water but uncooked, followed by a further three years on bread, salt and water. There then followed three more years on wild herbs and roots that he gathered himself. From 30 to 35, he rationed himself to six ounces of barley bread daily, accompanied by a portion of lightly-cooked vegetables, eaten without oil.
A Hermit's Cookbook: Monks, Food and Fasting in the Middle Ages by Andrew Jotischky