John Steinbeck’s 1937 short novel, Of Mice and Men, always brings a lump to my throat. It tells the story of two migrant farm workers, George and Lennie, during the Depression. Attempting to summarize it here would be futile. It would also be a crime against great writing. If you’ve never read it, I recommend you do so soon. For now, I quote a brief exchange that occurs in chapter three:
“Lennie drummed on the table with his fingers. “George?”
“George, how long’s it gonna’ be till we get that little place an’ live on the fatta the land, an’ rabbits?”
You’ll have to read it to find out about the rabbits, but George and Lennie sustain themselves with their dream of their own little farm where they’ll live in comparative luxury. Living on the fat of the land is an expression used widely in English literature and is correctly attributed to Pharaoh’s speech to Joseph in the Bible.
…and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat of the fat of the land. (Genesis 45:18)
But this is not the first time in the Bible that the phrase ‘fat of the land’ is used. Many chapters earlier, Isaac evokes it when he blesses his two sons, Jacob and Esau.