Heavenly goodness: on religious food blogs

Written by Aurora E. L. Turkenburg

It is not difficult to get lost online between food blogs, -videos, -reels, and recipe-tik-toks. Among countless of diets, such as the increasingly more popular veganism and keto diets, we also find ‘religious’ food blogs promoting a religious diet. Where do these stem from?

So, it’s all about compassion and, as I learned when I was doing Buddhist meditation retreats, you don’t have to involve animal suffering to have a good diet. It’s not necessary.

Jean-Philippe Cyr, ‘The Buddhist Chef’
source: https://www.lionsroar.com/a-conversation-with-the-buddhist-chef/

Religious diets are nothing new. They are, in fact, very old. Religious diets were, however, better known as laws (or in Dutch: ‘spijswetten’ lit. food-law) or dietary laws until around the 2000s. Like ‘ordinary’ diets, religious variants will prohibit certain foods or food groups. However, while normal diets will promote certain food groups, such as meat-intake for diabetics (as meats are naturally low in sugar), religious diets usually do not do this.

There are various religious diets you might have heard of. Most people will have heard of a Kosher diet, a product of the dietary laws of Judaism, which is actually called Kashrut. The most basic of rules are widely known: meat-products are not to be mixed with milk products, there is a kind of ritual slaughter of animals, and pigs are not allowed to be eaten. But there are many more rules to take into account. Did you know, for example, that those who adhere to a Kashrut diet cannot drink wine if the plants the grapes came from are less than 3 years old or fruit-bearing?

Other well-known religious diets are found in (some forms of) Islam, (some forms of) Hinduism, and (some forms of) Buddhism. They too divide foods in a strict ‘you can eat this’ and ‘you cannot eat this’ table. Another division will divide foods to certain times of the year, and prohibit the consumption of (certain) foods at certain times – you might know this as fasting or cleansing.

The divisions can be broadened to include certain layers of the ‘religious’ population also. It is not uncommon to see that those of higher status, such as monks in Buddhism or priests in Judaism, will conform to a stricter (and often more expensive) religious diet. Medieval Christian monks, for example, have had correspondence with the Pope on the consumption of raw bacon. Jains (a religious group from India, which is about as old as Buddhism), and especially their gurus, hold strictly to a vegetarian diet. This is in accordance with their ‘non-violence’ law called ‘ahimsa‘ that prohibits the killing of all living animals (and insects too!).

Ahimsa is taken as a food-law in several other Asian religions too. Even outside of Asia, we are currently seeing the law of Ahimsa return in several religious dietary laws – such as the Wiccan ‘harm none’ implementation on food – as well as in ‘normal’ diets, such as veganism.

The interesting thing about religious food blogs, however, is the fine line between real, existing religious dietary laws, and ‘religious’ food blogs.

Modern Christianity, for example, has no religious dietary laws. It is therefore quite interesting to look up the incredibly large corpus of active ‘Christian food blogs’ online. This list of 20 ‘Christian food blogs’, for example, contains not only at least 6 different ‘diets’ ranging from no-food rules to veganism. Interestingly, most blogs are run by Christian women. All blogs claim to be about ‘Christian food’. – but what (for God’s sake) is Christian about their recipes? Surely, a priest does not come by to bless their food… (as is done in Judaism).

What is your take on religious food? Do you follow a (religious) diet? Tell me in the comments.