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The Cookbook of Revelations


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Andy,

Perhaps I’m taking you a bit too seriously here, but for me, food is no substitute for faith. I’m all for the pleasures of the table – for the good life, conviviality, togetherness, and the enhanced family life that great food brings, but is it a church? I mean, is there a cookbook out there with something useful to say about the problem of evil? Maybe I’m just not getting it.

And about religious dietary laws - let me share an example from my faith. I’m an active Mormon, which means I follow the church’s doctrine called the “Word of Wisdom” and abstain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea (well, I have to confess I do love a little iced coffee with my Pho). These are the most well known aspects of LDS dietary laws, but there’s a prescriptive side as well (one that is widely ignored by most Mormons frankly). The prescriptive side advocates a diet based on grain as the staff of life, fruits and vegetables of all kinds, and meat only sparingly. In 1833 when this doctrine was introduced, I’ll bet it sounded random, but over time it has proven out as a healthy way to live. I’m not saying everyone needs to follow it, but there is “wisdom” in it. Thx.

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A truly Ripping Yarn, Andy. Belle plume indeed.

Growing up Anglican the only dietery restictions were cheap Scotch and limp watercress. Marrying Catholic, I never found fish on Friday a penace. And my Muslim friends have explained to me why Ramadan is the best food month of the year.

In any culture we can find some kind of almost logical explanation for dietary restictions, and I honor any person of faith following them, although I never could myself. But as the doubter I am, I refer everyone to Deuteronomy 22: (11?) fabric restictions. Better not be wearing a linen-cotton blend.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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As the breadth of the replies to Andy's article shows, I think the matter of the role that religion plays in our diet (and vice versa) is perhaps a little more complex than his article indicates.

This is in no way intended as a criticism of the piece, which I heartily enjoyed, and which in any case I suspect was penned more to provoke thought and debate than to give a definitive interpretation.

But... I'm not sure what benefit is to be had from muddying the waters by confusing a personal rejection of religious belief with reasoned debate about the way religion has informed humanity's relationship with food, and indeed the way food has informed religious practice. Sure, an agnostic position could easily lead to a wholesale rejection of the many observances, prescriptions and restrictions of any or all given religions, but I believe that to do so is to miss a trick. Why should saying you have no reason to believe in the existence of God (or proof to disprove it) mean that there can be no value in any of the practices or beliefs advocated or adopted by religions around the world, including dietary impositions? Isn't that just shooting yourself in the foot -after all, the wisdom or otherwise of humanity throughout the ages survived for the greatest part in religious texts and observances (a veritable tragedy according to this agnostic, as any wisdom was subject to the distorting lens of religious power-games, irrationalityand bigotry, but that does not change the fact that religion for better or worse has been the receptacle of much human knowledge. Just look at the appropriation of the age-old and food-oriented celebration of the winter solstice by the Babylonians, Romans and Christians to name but three religious guises: the feast of the son of Isis, Saturnalias and Christmas, anyone?).

So what religions say about food is of great anthropological value at the very least and, I would have thought,a mine of information and stimulation to anyone interested in food as a subject. Simply dismissing religious dietary restrictions as "purely a construct of religion, a simple way to help delineate one faith from another" doesn't tell the whole story, a story that stretches back as far as humanity has had to interact with nature to eat and drink, and which predates by millenia the advent of the religions which survive today.

This is the crux of the matter. In view of today's gastronomic climate, which places intrinsic value on terroir produce and seasonality, isn't it interesting that Lent, coinciding with the most fallow time of year when the spring and summer crops were yet to be harvested, the winter ones were running low, and rising temperatures called for the rapid consumption of even those meats that had been preserved over the cold weather, when those animals that had survived the cold had to be kept alive to produce the next generation (not so fish, however, available year-round)... isn't it interesting, and illustrative of our alienation from the processes of nature which get the food we eat into our supermarkets, that ancient human responses to our environment such as Lent, can be dismissed as 'purely a construct of religion'?

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Perhaps I’m taking you a bit too seriously here, but for me, food is no substitute for faith. 

This is a humorous piece so should be taken lightly. I wasn't suggesting food could be a substitute for faith, but that as a faithless person, the closet thing to religion in my life is food. I was speaking metaphorically.

In 1833 when this doctrine was introduced, I’ll bet it sounded random, but over time it has proven out as a healthy way to live.  I’m not saying everyone needs to follow it, but there is “wisdom” in it.  Thx.

I don't question that there may well be health benefits associated with observing religious dietry restrictions, but the point of them is much more to do with control than reducing heart attacks.

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As the breadth of the replies to Andy's article shows, I think the matter of the role that religion plays in our diet (and vice versa) is perhaps a little more complex than his article indicates.

The style of these columns is to take a subject that I have some strong feelings about and then go at them with all the subtlety and sensitivity of Leatherface swinging a chainsaw. Bcause of the subject matter, they do generally stimulate some debate but if I am honest, I don't set out to write with that intention in mind. I get a feeling in my gut about something and the column flows from that feeling. The only thing I consciously try to do is put some jokes in and make them funny.

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I mean, I would surely not have a problem with eating other people were I stranded on a mountain in the Andes with nothing else to eat

Remind me not to get stranded on a mountain with you anytime soon.

To get this back on a culinary theme,

How would we prepare Andy - should we be stuck in the Andes?(I'm assuming we've crashed with a fully equipped kitchen and possibly plenty of condiments)

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Perhaps I’m taking you a bit too seriously here, but for me, food is no substitute for faith. 

... but that as a faithless person, the closet thing to religion in my life is food.

I did greatly enjoy the column, though by the end I was thinking something that this comment truly solidified: human beings, even agnostics (count me in, every other day) have a deep need to a) create comprehensive belief systems, and b) include food or, more accurately, eating, in them ( of course!).

Talk to your neighborhood's impassioned vegan, or your own teenage daughter who just discovered vegetanarianism, or your grampa who's eaten meat all his life, damn it, because the good lord put the animals here for us to use to our best abilities! Scratch the surface of nearly any of us on egullet, and you'll find, somewhere, an irrational, passionately-held, quasi-mystical belief system related to food.

The good news is that those of us who center our new belief systems on food, even the dreaded vegan neighbor, at least haven't displaced all that religious fervor to politics!

Edited by rmockler (log)

Richard W. Mockler

Seattle

I will, in fact, eat anything once.

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Andy - I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for clarifying. After reading your blog and seeing your backyard, I have to agree that you're the high priest of the Church of Gastronomy. Count me among its members . . . particularly the sect that deals with Barbecue . . .

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As the breadth of the replies to Andy's article shows, I think the matter of the role that religion plays in our diet (and vice versa) is perhaps a little more complex than his article indicates.

The style of these columns is to take a subject that I have some strong feelings about and then go at them with all the subtlety and sensitivity of Leatherface swinging a chainsaw. Bcause of the subject matter, they do generally stimulate some debate but if I am honest, I don't set out to write with that intention in mind. I get a feeling in my gut about something and the column flows from that feeling. The only thing I consciously try to do is put some jokes in and make them funny.

Andy, I just love the angle you have taken and I really enjoyed the pace and flow of your piece. A bit of irreverence is very refreshing and it's great to hear from someone who is so proud of his place in the food chain. My Irish Catholic upbringing has ensured that the 'what if it is all actually true?' suspicion will always lurk, however subliminally. But, on the upside, the bible's not such a bad read if you pick your passages. I mean, manna from Heaven is good, the loaves and fishes was impressive, but my all time favourite has to be the water into wine trick! What a wedding present!

On the issue of Lent (mirroring the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the desert), this has always been viewed as a time for sacrafice (quite different from the Muslim Ramadam which is more about feasting with the family), but as strict adherance to this tradition dies, it is interesting to note the rise in detox diets and the whole ritual associated with cleansing the inner body. Maybe there was some logic to it after all.

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