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Old 10-10-2006, 08:28 AM   #1
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Religion and Food

I've always believed these are very much connected. The Ramadan thread made me think more about it. When travellling I've very much noticed the connection ... and I love it. What foods have religious connotations to you? What dishes are linked to spiritual holidays?

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Old 10-10-2006, 08:38 AM   #2
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I think this is a great idea for a thread. It could get tricky though as we can't discuss the actual religions, so everyone please keep that in mind while you post. Keep your responses about the food and not about the religion. Thanks.

In the jewish faith food plays a very significant role. Every holiday has some (and often many) foods that are symbolic in some way or another. Without actually discussing religion it would be too hard to talk about some of them so the one I will point out is honey. Honey is used justing the Jewish New Year to symbolize a sweet year.
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Old 10-10-2006, 10:29 AM   #3
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Well as someone brought up with one aethiast parent and one catholic who married someone from a non practising Jewish family but who believe more in paganism then food is very important to us! We tend to nod to all the traditions. We have a lot of muslim friends, who are often happy to break fast during ramadan in the evenings to eat together, and when my husbands jewiish family are over I love learning about the culture through the food.

My husband and I have both had nomadic childhoods to and its hard to draw a distinction between the religion and the nationality in the culture of food. We nod to all our dopted countries in our diet too. Thge result is an eclectic mixture.

I suppose our believe is more pagan than anything. My husband and I are both enviorenmentalists and so eating ethical food is important to us. I'd like to say we ate a purely local diet, but we just don't....tropical fruit is so great that would rule it out for me. But we do try and eat food grown locally over the same stuff imported.

A shared diet binds communities. I like the fact that dietarily I relate to a lot of people and although we follow very little in a purist form I like to acknowledge the festivals of many beliefs in my cooking and remmeber friends and family who do see a greater significance than I do in that food. The bonus for me is that festival food is normally seasonal. So it ties in to my own beliefs :D

If we ever have children I think it will benefit them we do this. The ritual and the metaphors of food are enriching and moral reminders, whatever the faith/s
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Old 10-10-2006, 10:52 AM   #4
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I grew up in India and was brought up as a Muslim. Even though I was never much of a religious person, I got ample exposure to Muslim food, culture and way of life.

The big food no no for us is pork and alcohol. My parents were pretty liberal but these are two things we were extremely strict about.

I then attended a convent which was extremely strict. Regardless of your religion you went to the chapel and recited all the prayers and hymns that Catholics do. I got exposed to Christmas and Easter (these two stood out the most) and the food related to these festivities. I loved the easter egg cakes. There was no mass commercialization - candies of santa claus, chocolate eggs etc in India but it was still a lot of fun and we looked forward to these holidays and went and saw the Santa Claus and got gifts.

I had a lot of Hindu friends growing up. Hindus have a lot of festivals and all of them are fun. There is Diwali (festival of lights), Navratri (the 10 days or so before Diwali where people dance with sticks), Holi (festival of color), Ganpati (festival of the elephant god) and we used to partake the food and activities in each of these festivals.

The food common to all of these religious celebration was good Indian food. Yes even the Christians and Hindus who are non-veg in India love to cook Biryani and love to relish on Indian desserts. For the vegetarians there are lots of good options as well.

Indian desserts which appear rather exotic to most westerners are mostly made of nuts and khoya (a rich ricotta like preparation) and spiced with saffron and cardamom. These sweets are savored by the entire population on their significant holiday regardless of their religious inclination.
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Old 10-10-2006, 11:04 AM   #5
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You can see a lot of the food issues in the various religious codes.

Kosher/Parve for Judaism

Halal for Islam

Lent restrictions ( more historic than current) There's also the traditional Paschal Lamb in the Euro-Meditteranean countries.

Jain I don't know the term for their diet, but it's strict. Based in non-violence, it precludes meat of course. Most dairy is out as commercially viable dairying is not in line with their ethics, no root vegetables (you kill the whole plant getting the root), no onion or garlic as they arouse passion. I would assume some don't eat seeds either?

Seventh Day Adventists have a rigourous dietary principle too. Recommended is vegetarianism, though the strict exclusions follow the Levitical laws. No pork, shellfish and such.
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Old 10-10-2006, 12:22 PM   #6
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I believe food and religion are quite connected, as is culture (part of the whole picture, no doubt.) Perhaps the most important aspects of such a connection are the human relationships at the table, and the realization that the foods we eat are not to be wasted.

My issue with "fast foods" is that we are so removed from the source of the food we forget it was living (be it wheat or meat), we are deprived of the creativity of the "chef" and that we are entrusted with the stewardship of the earth and its resources.

Thus I cherish all the traditions and celebrations, be they mine or yours. Hospitality is a sacred trust, a calling, a spiritual event.

(view this as philosophy, not any one religious view.)
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Old 10-11-2006, 03:51 AM   #7
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thymless (and anyone else) in my part of the country, even though Catholics quit many of the lenten food restrictions when I was young, you'll find that lenten fish fries are very popular at both community organizations (i.e., Elks, Lions etc lodges) and restauraunts.

Luckily I live in a very tolerant community and we all celebrate all of our holidays. You're right GB, it says a lot for the web site that we can discuss it all. In my family, tourtiere with beets was eaten after midnight mass Christmas eve. That's when we opened presents, and my father played Christmas carols on his accordion. Easter was ham in my family, but in my husband's Easter was lamb and a braided crown of bread. Throwing away food was almost sacriligious, but that probably had more to do with having family elders who grew up in poverty. I don't practice any religion, but honor all. My mom cooked for GIs and we learned to respect all. My MIL cooked for exchange college students .... so he grew up in the same respectful tradition.

I, too, grew up a nomad. I guess my attitude is why just celebrate one holiday when you can celebrate them all.

Another traditional food with religious connotations is Chinese long-life noodles.
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