Without a uniform dietary code, Christians around the world used food in strikingly different ways, developing widely divergent practices that spread, nurtured, and strengthened their religious beliefs and communities. Featuring never-before published essays, this anthology follows the intersection of food and faith from the fourteenth to the twenty-first century, charting the complex relationship among religious eating habits and politics, culture, and social structure.
Theoretically rich and full of engaging portraits, essays consider the rise of food buying and consumerism in the fourteenth century, the Reformation ideology of fasting and its resulting sanctions against sumptuous eating, the gender and racial politics of sacramental food production in colonial America, and the struggle to define "enlightened" Lenten dietary restrictions in early modern France. Essays on the nineteenth century explore the religious implications of wheat growing and breadmaking among New Zealand's Maori population and the revival of the Agape meal, or love feast, among American brethren in Christ Church. Twentieth-century topics include the metaphysical significance of vegetarianism, the function of diet in Greek Orthodoxy, American Christian weight loss programs, and the practice of silent eating rituals among English Benedictine monks. Two introductory essays detail the key themes tying these essays together and survey food's role in developing and disseminating the teachings of Christianity, not to mention providing a tangible experience of faith.
This excellent collection of essays shows the remarkable variety of ways in which food and meals have served to create and express identity for Christians. From the Middle Ages to the present, and from the Reformation to Orthodoxy to evangelicalism, contributors explore the diversity and the ubiquity of food's connection to faith.
The Revd Canon Andrew McGowan, Trinity College, The University of Melbourne
Ken Albala and Trudy Eden serve a delightful potpourri of thought-provoking and insightful essays. Widely separated in time and space, they are held together by common themes, such as bodily health, fasting, and commensality, and are peopled by a wild array of monks, noblemen, adventurers, bishops, vegetarians, medical professionals, Maoris, and missionaries, to name just a few. This much needed collection deserves to be widely read by anyone interested in food, history, and religion. Well-done!
Andrew F. Smith
Altogether, the essays are topical, well written, and stimulating. They nicely capture the diversity, nuance, and complexity surrounding the place and role of dietary practices in Christian culture.
Raymond A. Mentzer