Religion and Foodways

Read this post about an Egyptian television cooking show and the importance of foodways in religion, if only for the all-too-typical “Polish cookies” anecdote.

I cannot see any Pagans today using the “Polish cookies” line, although we do have all too many people invested in boundary maintenance.

What is [any subdivision of’] Pagan cooking, anyway? And what would be considered objectionable food?

9 thoughts on “Religion and Foodways

  1. Mira

    To this emigrated Scandinavian heathen it’s more the culture that matters, and not what I happen to believe in. I can well imagine that in a place like the US where there is no underlaying culture to lean on for both parties, an immigrant culture would feel competitive and threatened if challenged the way described in the “Polish cookies” story. But I don’t think it has to do with anybody’s religious/spiritual convictions and worldview. It’s more a “us/them” issue reinforced by inexistent cultural “common ground”.

    – Mira

  2. Mira

    Illustration, sort of:

    I would be a bit offended if somebody here were to offer me a genuine Scandinavian dish because they know I’m homesick, and what I got was Ikea meatballs, but I wouldn’t react at all if, in a religious feast, the gods got served something local instead of the heiffer they used to get only a century ago or the cured ham and sour porridge they used to get when I still lived back home. I think what we have here is a “when in Rome” situation.

    Mira – again

  3. “I can well imagine that in a place like the US where there is no underlaying culture…”

    How very European. It’s a big country. We have lots of cultures—and the common one is political, not gustatory.

    1. Mira

      How very American. ;P

      Yeah, seen from the outside. It’s a big country and you have lots of cultures – instead of being a small/ish country with one culture, like most of the countries your culture is built up from had only a few decades ago. You still have no one American culture, and you still look to Europe for your roots – your pagans in particular! – as if the roots you have where you are don’t count, somehow. You have a lot of “when in”, but no “Rome”.

      – Mira

  4. What an intriguing question. I can’t say there’s any food I would considerably typically “Wiccan” at least not American Wiccan. I am Polish-American, and Polish food is very segregated, special-occasion-only stuff for me. My day-to-day cooking looks nothing like what I grew up with: most meals are vegetarian (although I’m not one) and are a hybrid of the latest health craze and whatever I can get at a farmer’s market. It bears no resemblance to the meat-salad-starch combo I grew up with, and American “comfort foods” that show up often at Pagan festivals where I am – pasta salads, jello-variations, casseroles – actually make me uncomfortable.

  5. You remind of some lines from the poem “Word Basket Woman” by one of my favorite poets, Gary Snyder:

    Europe forgotten now, almost a dream—
    but our writing
    is sideways and roman, and the language
    a compote of old wars and tribes from some
    place overseas.

  6. I think it’s problematic for a Pagan feast *not* to have a decent array of vegetarian offerings, unless you’re 100% sure that every guest is an omnivore. Pagan hospitality should be welcoming of diversity.

    Other than that, I don’t know of any unwelcome foods.

  7. I’d guess lots of pagan groups have foods that have become traditional for certain occasions, but I can’t picture American pagans pulling a Polish cookie act. For example, I always make some type of anthropomorphic bread for Lammas, but I wouldn’t be outraged if someone brought a chocolate cake as well. Maybe food isn’t a big identity marker among American pagans yet.

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