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The Communion Of Humans And God Via Food

1987 words - 8 pages

Although my last food journey as a Paleo was difficult, it was very rewarding as I learned much about the differences between our diets and ancestors’ diets. The one entity the Paleo diet lacked, however, was a religious backbone. When I was offered the opportunity to embark on a new venture, I was excited to explore the practice of eating kosher-style. While keeping my Lenten promise of avoiding sweets, I decided to dabble with the some Jewish food rules. I find it very interesting that we often regard food as an enemy—avoiding sweets during the season of Lent and never mixing dairy with meat when following the rules of kashrut—but why do we partake in such food rules? Perhaps, we abide by ...view middle of the document...

In a similar vein, Elizabeth Ehrlich, author of Miriam’s Kitchen, struggled to fully grasp the food rules of Judaism since she was not raised in a particularly Jewish household. Ehrlich was a smart yet skeptical, secular Jew, who, as she matured, found interest in kashrut—the dietary laws of Judaism. Her mother-in-law, Miriam, inspired her to understand the significance of keeping a kosher kitchen. Through the practice of kosher tradition, Ehrlich became oriented to her family and to her faith. She explained the plight of her religion, and that tradition, in her life and in this world, was that which she viewed as salvation. “Not that I believe in a world to come. But a roasted chicken on a Friday night after candles are lit and lights are turned low and blessing are said, in a clean house, is for the moment, paradise enough…like a made escapee from an unknown century, I explain to myself, hoping for the right answer” (Ehrlich, 293). Ehrlich, at this very moment, was able to connect to her ancestors at Shabbat dinner. Through eating and cooking family recipes, Ehrlich repaired “the breaches in the transmission of tradition” (Ochs, 108). Even though keeping kosher is not a part of my family’s custom, I can relate to the aspect of tradition. Every Christmas, my family makes an infamous, complex gravy. In years past, however, I recollect calling my grandmother to gather the exact recipe for the meatballs. Similarly, Ehrlich’s daughter called her Bubbe for a specific recipe in hopes of maintaining family food tradition. For Ehrlich, it’s clear that we follow food guidelines in efforts to maintain religious tradition, an invaluable portal to the past.
Food within a family, culture, and religion often has a higher meaning to be unpacked and explained. It broadcasts a message of pride, identity, and nostalgia as evidenced in the works of Mary Douglas’ Deciphering a Meal. Mary Douglas, a British anthropologist, was one of the first people to ask, “if food is a code, where is the pre-coded message?” (Douglas, 61) While partaking in my Judaic food practice, I uncovered a similar assertion that food is indeed a channel of communication. We can see food as adhering to the same practices as language because food is a code, expressing patterns about social relationships. Like Ehrlich, Douglas illustrates how people fast and eat food in a particular way to communicate across generations, directly linking both ritual and culture. For example, food is usually the centerpiece at our important occasions, such as holidays, birthdays, weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, communions, and funerals. It can be dubbed as ritualistic because there is usually a clear set of rules when hosting certain meals, such as a Shabbat or Sunday dinners. These procedures normally involve repetition, expected behaviors, and mandated roles for both the participants and the foods. The repetition encompassed by the meal “invests the individual meal with additional meaning” (67). Although I...

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