Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2009ABSTRACT A significant domain of meaning embodied in food centers on the relation between the sexes, their gender definitions and their sexuality. In many cultures eating is a sexual and gendered experience throughout life. Food and sex are metaphorically overlapping. Eating may represent copulation and food may represent sexuality. In this paper I intend to look at several talmudic passages which concern food as a metaphor for women and sex in the talmudic literature. While there are an increasing number of works devoted to women in the talmudic literature, often noting the linking of sex to food, there are few which focus at length on the intimate relation between food and sex, rather than giving it merely a passing mention. Late Antique Palestine, where the talmudic literature began, was part of a Graeco-Roman world encompassing the whole of the Mediterranean basin, often extending far into the hinterland. The rabbis of the Mishnah (3 rd century) and the Jerusalem Talmud (5 th -7 th centuries) lived in a Roman province in the Hellenised Greek east. The rabbis of Babylonia, on the other hand, while heirs to the Palestinian traditions, lived under Persian rule, outside the borders of the empire, although hardly unaware of its culture. I shall start, therefore, by first taking a brief glance at food as a metaphor for sex in Athenaeus, who lived and wrote in Graeco-Roman Egypt at the same time as the Mishnah was being compiled. Athenaeus compiled a rather different sort of book, which has yet some striking similarities with the Talmudic literature. His Deipnosophistai, the Learned Banqueters, purports to describe the conversation around the dinner-table of a number of philosophers. The discussion relates to its setting, a symposium dinner, where the participants talk, eat, drink and quote literature, in the company of their women, hetairai, whose voices we rarely hear.