Food Matters

Tasting, Teaching, Theorizing Religion and Food

Authors

  • Martha L. Finch Missouri State University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/bsor.33088

Keywords:

religion and food, foodways, material culture, sensory culture, theory and method

Abstract

Each week in my religion and food course during Spring 2016, a student or I brought foods related to the religious group we were studying into the classroom for all to try. With the first dish they tasted, students asked, “So what makes this food ‘religious’?” This question formed the central theme throughout the semester as we wrestled with what religion is in the context of food and foodways: the network of material aspects (food itself; practices like growing, distributing, cooking, eating; sensory experiences such as taste) and conceptual aspects (ideas, meanings, metaphors, symbols, values such as taste) of food in a particular social/cultural group. The familiar and unfamiliar foods elicited visceral reactions from students. This essay argues that paying closer attention to religion as an independent interpretive category and especially to food itself, as a material agent eliciting powerful sensory effects that precede religious ideas and enable those ideas, provides an alternative to dependence on common food studies’ interpretive categories and on the Protestant-influenced focus on food as abstracted symbol or metaphor of ‘meaning.’

Author Biography

Martha L. Finch, Missouri State University

Associate Professor Emerita of Religious Studies

References

Anonymous. 2012. “Spiritual Side of Paleo?” Paleohacks. http://www.paleohacks.com/food/spiritual-side-of-paleo-20508.

Dallam, Marie W. 2014. Introduction to Religion, Food, and Eating in North America, edited by Benjamin E. Zeller, Marie W. Dallam, Reid L. Neilson, and Nora L. Rubel, xvii–xxxii. New York: Columbia University Press.

Dasi, Krishna Devi, and Sama Devi Dasi. 1973. The Hare Krishna Cookbook. Culver City, CA: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

Dodson, Jualynne E., and Cheryl Townsend Gilkes. 1995. “‘There’s Nothing Like Church Food’: Food and the Afro-Christian Tradition: Re-membering Community and Feeding the Embodied Spirits.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 63: 519–38. https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/LXIII.3.519.

Ehrlich, Elizabeth. 1997. Miriam’s Kitchen: A Memoir. New York: Penguin Books.

Eye, Sara. 2015. “Paleo: A Guide to Spiritual and Intellectual Growth.” Paleo Foundation Certification, May 1. http://paleofoundation.com/paleo-guide-to-spiritual-and-intellectual-growth/.

Fea, John. 2014. “The Author’s Corner with Robert Orsi.” The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog. https://thewayofimprovement.com/2016/08/04/the-authors-corner-with-robert-orsi/.

Goldenberg, Ariel. 2015. “Paleo and Spirituality.” The Paleo Logic blog. May 18. http://thepaleologic.com/paleo-and-spirituality/.

Gordon, Deborah. 2015. “Why Go Paleo? One Doctor’s Story.” Spirituality and Health, May-June. http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/articles/why-go-paleo.

Grumett, David. 2014. “Dynamics of Christian Dietary Abstinence.” In Religion, Food, and Eating in North America, edited by Benjamin E. Zeller, Marie W. Dallam,

Reid L. Neilson, and Noral L. Rubel, 3-22. New York: Columbia University Press. https://doi.org/10.7312/zell16030-003.

Harris, Patricia, David Lyon, and Sue McLaughlin. 2005. The Meaning of Food. Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press.

Hastings, Michael. 2012. “Gumbo to Greet the New Year.” Winston-Salem Journal, Dec 26. http://www.journalnow.com/home_food/food/recipe_search/article_33ac6ec4-4df7-11e2-8ff7-001a4bcf6878.html.

Hicks, Dennis. 2014. “An Unusual Feast: Gumbo and the Complex Brew of Black Religion.” In Religion, Food, and Eating in North America, edited by Benjamin E.

Zeller, Marie W. Dallam, Reid L. Neilson, and Noral L. Rubel, 134–53. New York: Columbia University Press. https://doi.org/10.7312/zell16030-009.

Johnson, Adrienne Rose. 2015. “The Paleo Diet and the American Weight Loss Utopia, 1975-2014.” Utopian Studies 26 (1): 101–24. https://doi.org/10.5325/utopianstudies.26.1.0101.

Keane, Webb. 2005. “Signs Are Not the Garb of Meaning: On the Social Analysis of Material Things.” In Materiality, edited by Daniel Miller, 182–205. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822386711-008.

Krantz, Rose N. 2012. “The Spirituality in Paleo.” Adventures of a Modern Cave Girl blog. http://adventuresofamoderncavegirl.blogspot.com/2012/04/spirituality-in-paleo.html.

Long, Lucy M. 2008. Introduction to Culinary Tourism, edited by Lucy M. Long, 1–19. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Madden, Etta M., and Martha L. Finch. 2006. Introduction. Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias, 1–31. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

McClymond, Kathryn. 2006. “You Are Where You Eat: Negotiating Hindu Utopias in Atlanta.” In Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias, 89–105. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Morgan, David. 2008. “The Materiality of Cultural Construction.” Material Religion 4: 228–29. https://doi.org/10.2752/175183408X328334.

Muhammad, Aubrey M., ed. 2003. Muslim Cooking with Muhammad: Muslim Cookbook, Nutrition, and Health Guide, Version One of Five: Nutrition & Health. East Rockaway, NY: Rawiyah Sphere of Writers.

Muhammad, Elijah. 1967. How to Eat to Live. Phoenix, AZ: Secretarius MEMPS Publications.

Roof, Wade Clark. 2001. “Blood in the Barbecue? Food and Faith in the American South.” In God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture, edited by Eric Michael Mazur and Kate McCarthy, 109–21. New York: Routledge.

Snow, Kimberley. 2004. In Buddha’s Kitchen: Cooking, Being Cooked, and Other Adventures in a Meditation Center. Boston: Shambala Publications.

Zeller, Benjamin E. 2014. “Quasi-Religious American Foodways: The Cases of Vegetarianism and Locavorism.” In Religion, Food, and Eating in North America, edited by Benjamin E. Zeller, Marie W. Dallam, Reid L. Neilson, and Noral L. Rubel, 294–318. New York: Columbia University Press. https://doi.org/10.7312/zell16030-017.

———. 2015. “Totem and Taboo in the Grocery Store: Quasi-Religious Foodways in North America.” Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 26: 11–31.

Published

2017-07-04

How to Cite

Finch, M. (2017). Food Matters: Tasting, Teaching, Theorizing Religion and Food. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 46(2), 3-8. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsor.33088

Issue

Section

Articles

Most read articles by the same author(s)