Religion, Food, and Eating in North America

Religion, Food, and Eating in North America

BENJAMIN E. ZELLER
MARIE W. DALLAM
REID L. NEILSON
NORA L. RUBEL
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/zell16030
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  • Book Info
    Religion, Food, and Eating in North America
    Book Description:

    The way in which religious people eat reflects not only their understanding of food and religious practice but also their conception of society and their place within it. This anthology considers theological foodways, identity foodways, negotiated foodways, and activist foodways in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Original essays explore the role of food and eating in defining theologies and belief structures, creating personal and collective identities, establishing and challenging boundaries and borders, and helping to negotiate issues of community, religion, race, and nationality.

    Contributors consider food practices and beliefs among Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, as well as members of new religious movements, Afro-Carribean religions, interfaith families, and individuals who consider food itself a religion. They traverse a range of geographic regions, from the Southern Appalachian Mountains to North America's urban centers, and span historical periods from the colonial era to the present. These essays contain a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives, emphasizing the embeddedness of food and eating practices within specific religions and the embeddedness of religion within society and culture. The volume makes an excellent resource for scholars hoping to add greater depth to their research and for instructors seeking a thematically rich, vivid, and relevant tool for the classroom.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53731-5
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-X)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. XI-XIV)
    MARTHA L. FINCH

    “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” So wrote the social activist Dorothy Day in 1940 to illustrate the aims and purposes of the Catholic Worker movement. In her formulation of the ideal society, Day explicitly correlated soul with body and heaven with earth, affirming that both spiritual and material human needs must be met in order to achieve a world in which justice prevailed. It’s a given, of course, that food nourishes and sustains human existence; yet it is far more than simply a biological requirement. Indeed,becauseit is necessary for...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. XV-XVI)
  5. INTRODUCTION: RELIGION, FOOD, AND EATING
    (pp. XVII-XXXIV)
    MARIE W. DALLAM

    Eating and drinking are physical needs, required to maintain bodily health and give us energy on a daily basis. But most of us do not eat justanything: we have a range of foods with which we are familiar, and within that are subsets of foods that we enjoy in greater and lesser degrees. Social factors also influence our eating and drinking habits. For example, economics, geography, ethnicity, health, and age are likely to play strong roles in which foods and beverages we choose to consume or eschew at any given time. Entire cultural groups have explicit rules about foods,...

  6. PART 1: THEOLOGICAL FOODWAYS
    • One DYNAMICS OF CHRISTIAN DIETARY ABSTINENCE
      (pp. 3-22)
      DAVID GRUMETT

      What makes a dietary practice “religious”? Dietary practice can be a key means by which religious groups identify themselves and develop cohesion, but a particular set of practices cannot be classified as religious purely on the grounds that a specified group of people who are religious happen to observe them. The set of practices might extend beyond group boundaries to encompass people who are not adherents of the religion in question. Furthermore, members of a particular religious group might observe specific practices on a whim, or see in them no religious significance. In this case, even if the practices were...

    • Two “JOIN US! COME, EAT!”: VEGETARIANISM IN THE FORMATIVE PERIOD OF THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS AND THE UNITY SCHOOL OF CHRISTIANITY
      (pp. 23-41)
      JEREMY RAPPORT

      The seventh-day adventists and the Unity School of Christianity, two important alternative religious communities that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century, both advocated vegetarian diets during their formative periods. The groups are at opposite ends of a Protestant theological spectrum. Seventh-day Adventists teach that redemption and salvation require faith in Jesus understood as the Son of God along with strict adherence to biblical laws. The Unity School of Christianity teaches that God is an omnibenevolent force pervading the universe and that Jesus exemplified the possibilities that all humans could develop. Humans can achieve redemption and salvation by...

    • Three “AND AS WE DINE, WE SING AND PRAISE GOD”: FATHER AND MOTHER DIVINE’S THEOLOGIES OF FOOD
      (pp. 42-67)
      LEONARD NORMAN PRIMIANO

      The story of religion in America is more than the narrative of those individual traditions that consciously migrated to the United States from various parts of the globe, be they Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Christian, many varieties of Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and so forth. Equally significant is the existence of indigenous American religions that evolved on the mainland both before and after its colonization by Europeans. Such resident systems of belief and practice naturally embrace Native American religions but also include the multitude of hybridized movements that emerged out of the interaction of allochthonous religions with inhabitants of...

    • Four HALLELUJAH ACRES: CHRISTIAN RAW FOODS AND THE QUEST FOR HEALTH
      (pp. 68-88)
      ANNIE BLAZER

      Hallelujah acres is a health ministry aimed at Evangelical Christians in the United States.¹ The organization encourages an alternative to conventional medicine and to the standard American diet (which they call “SAD”). Hallelujah Acres advocates a vegan, raw foods diet (food is not heated above 115°F) as God’s plan for perfect eating and as a curative treatment for most illnesses and diseases. At lifestyle centers, experts on the Hallelujah Diet demonstrate and instruct guests on how to eat and live accordingly. In the summer of 2011 I conducted participant observation fieldwork at a lifestyle center in Lake Lure, North Carolina,...

  7. PART 2: IDENTITY FOODWAYS
    • Five DRAYDEL SALAD: THE SERIOUS BUSINESS OF JEWISH FOOD AND FUN IN THE 1950S
      (pp. 91-113)
      RACHEL GROSS

      In the 1950s the Jewish publishing house KTAV embarked on a quest to capture the hearts, minds, and stomachs of American Jewish children. Educators feared that unless they made Jewish children’s education more entertaining, the young baby boomers would rapidly lose interest in their cultural and religious heritage. Against the force of what one Jewish journalist called children’s “ordinary (and, as a matter of fact, entirely absorbing) American life,” traditional Jewish forms of acculturation at home would not suffice and, worse still, were no longer reliable, while classroom instruction seemed of no avail.¹ A critique of the conventions of formal...

    • Six SALMON AS SACRAMENT: FIRST SALMON CEREMONIES IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
      (pp. 114-133)
      SUZANNE CRAWFORD O’BRIEN

      August 1, 2011

      It is a warm August day, under a clear blue sky. Four hundred people have gathered at the Arcadia Boat Launch near the Squaxin Island Indian Reservation. The tide is out, and children scatter across the beach, searching for shells and critters exposed by the tide. A path leading from the water to a table above the tide mark has been marked out with cedar branches and sword ferns. A canoe approaches the beach, crewed by five young women, five young men, and an older captain. A drum calls the people on the beach to attention, and...

    • Seven AN UNUSUAL FEAST: GUMBO AND THE COMPLEX BREW OF BLACK RELIGION
      (pp. 134-153)
      DEREK S. HICKS

      Robby’s annual inquiry would begin before Christmas: “When is Mama Dean gonna make her gumbo?” Robby Owens is a childhood friend and a self-proclaimed lover of “real” gumbo. My grandmother, “Mama Dean” as she was affectionately called by family and neighborhood kids alike, had for years annually brewed a grand pot of gumbo for New Year’s Day. As a child the significance of this tradition was lost on me. I could in no way understand why Robby was excited about this odd cuisine. Back then gumbo was strange and disagreeable to my palate. In fact, I did not have a...

    • Eight “I CHOSE JUDAISM BUT CHRISTMAS COOKIES CHOSE ME”: FOOD, IDENTITY, AND FAMILIAL RELIGIOUS PRACTICE IN CHRISTIAN/JEWISH BLENDED FAMILIES
      (pp. 154-172)
      SAMIRA K. MEHTA

      When upper-class, catholic television character Bridget first arrives at the home of her working-class, Jewish future in-laws, her fiancé Bernie’s mother, Sophie Steinberg, cooks a meal of traditional eastern European dishes, including gefilte fish and horseradish.¹ Bridget claims to love the dishes, though the potency of the horseradish gives her a bit of a struggle. The meal is a hazing ritual of hospitality, and Bridget, who has eaten far more than her fill, clearly realizes that she is being judged. Her presence strains the conversation enough that there is a discussion about whether the Yiddish jokes will be funny in...

  8. PART 3: NEGOTIATED FOODWAYS
    • Nine CRYSTALLIZING SUBJECTIVITIES IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA: SUGAR, HONEY, AND THE GODS OF AFRO-CUBAN LUCUMÍ
      (pp. 175-194)
      ELIZABETH PÉREZ

      Since the 1889 publication of William Robertson Smith’s immensely influentialLectures on the Religion of the Semites, the issue of sacrifice, along with questions concerning the ethics and aesthetics of religious violence, have governed the scholarly discussion about the offerings that gods, ancestors, and other spirits are envisioned as receiving. In many religions and traditional cultures, sacrifice has been performed by men, and food preparation by women; this division of ritual labor along gendered lines, and the widespread denigration of “women’s work,” has reinforced academic neglect of religious offerings that do not involve the death of a victim. As a...

    • Ten GOOD TO EAT: CULINARY PRIORITIES IN THE NATION OF ISLAM AND THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
      (pp. 195-213)
      KATE HOLBROOK

      When it comes to diet, two religious groups considered outsiders by mainstream Americans have more in common than perhaps anyone imagined. Members of the Nation of Islam (Nation) have been marginalized as much for their perceived militancy and racism as for abstaining from sweet potatoes and pork, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are as infamous for a past that included plural marriage as for prohibitions against coffee and alcohol. Yet both religious groups choose what to eat by hallmarks as similar and American as apple pie: the attainment of self-sufficiency and the pursuit...

    • Eleven MINDFUL EATING: AMERICAN BUDDHISTS AND WORLDLY BENEFITS
      (pp. 214-233)
      JEFF WILSON

      Practiced in a wide range of Asian countries and cultures, Buddhism is one of history’s most successful religions and is currently expanding into yet another area: the modern West. Moving out of India into a wide range of different Asian regions, Buddhism penetrated new cultures through a process of creative adaptation, especially by reconfigurations that allowed it to provide concrete benefits that each new culture desired. For example, Buddhism’s patronage in China often came from rulers who appreciated the teaching that the buddhas and Buddhist gods would provide supernatural support to kings who protected the monks and made offerings for...

    • Twelve THE FEAST AT THE END OF THE FAST: THE EVOLUTION OF AN AMERICAN JEWISH RITUAL
      (pp. 234-250)
      NORA L. RUBEL

      There is a famous scene in Woody Allen’s 1977 film,Annie Hall, where the Jewish protagonist Alvie Singer visits his girlfriend’s family for Easter dinner. In a split-screen, imagined exchange between Annie’s mother and Alvie’s family at their respective dinner tables, the matriarch asks how the Jewish family will be spending “the holidays.” Mrs. Singer immediately replies, “We fast.” Mr. Singer chimes in, “Yeah, no food. You know, we have to atone for our sins.” Mrs. Hall responds, “What sins? I don’t understand.” And Mr. Singer, still shoveling food in his mouth replies, “Tell you the truth, neither do we.”¹...

  9. PART 4: ACTIVIST FOODWAYS
    • Thirteen KOINONIA PARTNERS: A DEMONSTRATION PLOT FOR FOOD, FELLOWSHIP, AND SUSTAINABILITY
      (pp. 253-273)
      TODD LEVASSEUR

      The past sixty years have seen a tremendous growth in environmental consciousness in American society. This is due to insights from the science of ecology and the development of more sophisticated technologies that can measure human impact on the environment. Such increased consciousness has resulted in humans deliberating about the perceived ills of industrial agriculture, bemoaning the rapid loss of species diversity, and debating the reality of human-induced climate change, to name only three of many environmental issues. Such consciousness is also entering into the doctrines, ethics, and institutional governance of a wide variety of religious groups, leading to an...

    • Fourteen REFRESHING THE CONCEPT OF HALAL MEAT: RESISTANCE AND RELIGIOSITY IN CHICAGO’S TAQWA ECO-FOOD COOPERATIVE
      (pp. 274-293)
      SARAH E. ROBINSON

      Traditionally muslims eathalalmeat, “permissible” meat, from particular animals that have been slaughtered using specific techniques. These food standards are defined by the Qur’an and interpreted by Muslim religious leaders.¹ Yet in 2010 founding coordinator of the Taqwa Eco-Food Cooperative Shireen Pishdadi asserted: “Halal is not just about how you slaughter the animal, right? I mean, if you are exploiting people, right, enslaving people to grow your food, how is that halal?!”² In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Pishdadi and other Taqwa leaders challenged norms in their local Muslim community in Chicago by broadening the view of...

    • Fifteen QUASI-RELIGIOUS AMERICAN FOODWAYS: THE CASES OF VEGETARIANISM AND LOCAVORISM
      (pp. 294-312)
      BENJAMIN E. ZELLER

      “Food is my religion.” So declares a participant in Shannon Hayes’s study of “radical homemakers,” women who defy consumer culture through intentionally and playfully subverting traditional gender roles.¹ Variants of this statement abound in food magazines, cooking shows, and food blogs, not to mention everyday conversations. People have declared chocolate, beer, and cheese their religions. So too with various types or approaches to food, such as vegetarianism or locavorism (eating food that one identifies as produced locally). The question is not whether people consider food and eating as something akin to religion. They do. Rather, what does this reveal, and...

  10. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY ON RELIGION AND FOOD
    (pp. 313-318)
  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 319-324)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 325-336)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 337-338)