Food & Faith

As most of you know by know, I’m quite the fan of food and learning about religion. That’s why when Christian History Magazine emailed me about their latest issue I was pretty intrigued and wanted to share it with you. The issue is “Faith & Food, 2000 Years of Feasting and Fasting”.

As they explain:
This issue is packed with tid-bits of information about foods mentioned in the Bible and Christianity’s holiest meal, the Lord’s Supper. Many more meals and meal traditions have been documented, among them: potlucks and fellowship meals, soup kitchens and church gardens, Christian cookbooks and Christian diets, the temperance movement, feasting, fasting and practices of hospitality.

Articles:
Good food from the good book, A partial primer on biblical foods by the editor

What should Christians cook?, Faith in the kitchen by Jennifer Trafton – Jennifer Trafton, author, artist, creative writing teacher, and former managing editor of Christian History.

The royal way, Feasting or fasting? the constant Christian tension in the public square by Kathleen Mulhern, who teaches Christian formation and church history at Denver Seminary.

Fasting: from the Orthodox front lines, we should consider the spiritual discipline of not eating by Frederica Mathewes-Green, author of Welcome to the Orthodox Church and numerous other books, and frequent essayist and public speaker.

Recipes, recipe suggestions from friends of Christian History by Josh Hale, Barbara J. Hale, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Julie Byrne, Mary Anne Tietjen Byrne, Quita Sauerwein

Everyday substances, heavenly gifts, From the beginning, the holiest Christian meal used everyday food by Andrew McGowan – J. L. Caldwell McFaddin and Rosine B. McFaddin Professor of Anglican Studies and Pastoral Theology and dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. He is the author of Ancient Christian Worship and Ascetic Eucharists.

Eating (and not eating) with the church fathers, Things church fathers said about food compiled by Jennifer Woodruff Tait – Managing editor, Christian History.

Raise a juice box to the temperance movement, Getting unfermented wine from the vineyard by Jennifer Woodruff Tait – Managing editor, Christian History.

What would Jesus buy?, How nineteenth-century Christians transformed our grocery aisles by Matt Forster – freelance author living in Clarkston, Michigan, and a frequent contributor to Christian History.

The sacred duty, a Seventh-day Adventist menu by LaVonne Neff – freelance author and blogger at LivelyDust, raised an Adventist.

From Cana to Jell-O, Christian fellowship meals: feeding the hungry and each other by Barton E. Price – director of the Centers for Academic Success and Achievement at Indiana University–Purdue University Ft. Wayne and teaches history, music, and religious studies.

Welcoming the Stranger, Serving the guest—including with bread by Carmen Acevedo Butcher – lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Man of Blessing: A Life of St. Benedict.

I haven’t read the entire issue yet, but I’ve read a few articles so far and I find it interesting. The articles are well written and the art is beautiful. Are you interested? Well good news, you can read it for free online at the Christian History Institute’s website! And if you like what you read, you can subscribe with a donation of any amount you choose.

10 Questions with James Morgante

1. Out of all the subjects available to study, what made you decide to research the connection between diet and spirituality?

Back in the mid-1970s when I was searching for alternatives in psychology, I discovered the holistic health movement and its paradigm of the interacting dimensions of body, mind, and spirit, along with Eastern traditions like macrobiotics and Buddhism that emphasize the consciousness effects of diet. I was intrigued by the relationship and wondered about an explanation. This led to a master’s thesis in a holistic psychology program entitled “Nutrition, Consciousness, Spiritual Teachings, and Scientific Models.” The results were mixed. Some scientific models can help to explain nutrition’s consciousness effects, but only to a degree. More importantly, it became clear that nutrition may affect the growth of consciousness, but it shouldn’t be overemphasized at the expense of other factors like behavior and attitudinal changes. It also became clear that both vegetal and meat diets had advantages and disadvantages. The Yogi Diet takes all of this up and works it out in more detail, while also adding a special focus on grains (one of the keys to a vegetarian diet) and their critique by the low-carbohydrate movement. Ultimately, the book affirms the religious and spiritual importance of diet and the relevance of vegetarianism, but cautions against extremes.

2. Even though your book, “The Yogi Diet”, says it’s about “Spirituality and the Question of Vegetarianism” you spend an ample amount of time discussing secular diets such as Atkins, Paleo, the evolution of America’s Food Pyramid, etc. How did those topics make their way into the book?

Spiritual traditions concern themselves with diet because diet affects health, and health in the holistic sense of body, mind, and spirit. Their special concern and expertise involve dietary effects on the spirit and spiritual development. But effects on the body and bodily health are also of concern, and here secular paradigms have much to say. If spiritual traditions, for example, recommend vegetarianism (as many do), because of the spiritual effect, the question remains as to whether a vegetarian diet is also healthy for the body. Conversely, if spiritual traditions denigrate meat and animal foods because of adverse spiritual effects, then we can expect to see such adverse effects reflected with the health of the body as well. In fact, the total record shows ambiguity on the part of religious and spiritual traditions on the question of vegetarianism because of advantages and disadvantages. Arguably, those same advantages and disadvantages, as well as the conditions determining them, are visible in the debates of secular paradigms focused on bodily health. In this sense, secular diets provide a check and a corroboration of spiritual views about vegetarianism. The goal of The Yogi Diet is to foster wisdom by synthesizing various points of view. In this process, secular views are also important.

3. You started your winding tale of spirituality and diet with Hinduism. Why start there?

The book begins (and ends) with the Bhagavad-Gita’s dietary teaching because it is archetypical in several respects. First, its concern is health, or the nourishing and strengthening effect on the “mental, vital, and physical forces.” Second, its perspective is holistic, comprising the totality of the human being per its conception (i.e., the mental, vital, and physical forces; Western traditions speak of body, mind, and spirit). Thirdly, its teaching is unspecific, not naming individual foods, but judging diets by the health effect (i.e., different diets may well be appropriate for different individuals if the effect is healthy). Yet another archetypal aspect is the relative modesty of the importance attached to diet (four verses within a spiritual teaching comprising 700 verses). Finally, the Bhagavad-Gita as a Hindu spiritual teaching cannot be separated from the Hindu religious teaching of The Laws of Manu (chapter 5), of which the Gita shows familiarity. The Laws of Manu include detailed instructions about allowable and prohibited foods (like the Mosaic dietary code) as well as the conditions which allow and prohibit the consumption of meat. The Laws allow meat, but they enjoin minimal consumption and even avoidance as much as possible as well. Thus, the teachings of the Gita and the Laws of Manu complement one another. The religious perspective of the Laws (religion understood as the rules and practices governing a tradition) allows meat while questioning overconsumption or unnecessary consumption. The spiritual perspective of the Bhagavad-Gita (spirituality understood as the extra step of deliberately pursuing the path of “the good, the true, and the beautiful”) outlines a dietary criterion — health — that requires discrimination. Both together make up the totality of the tradition’s view about vegetarianism, which in the case of Hinduism is appropriately ambiguous.

4. Were you surprised how many variables play into a person deciding what to eat?

Yes, I was and am surprised. When I first began to consider the topic of diet and spirituality, I thought that vegetarianism related to spirituality in a very simplistic way — eat vegetarian and become more spiritual. It turns out to be much more complicated than that, as evidenced by the ambiguity of religious and spiritual traditions about vegetarianism. We are all individuals, which means that we have individual capacities and needs, and the ambiguity about vegetarianism reflects this. I also think it’s fair to say that widespread interest in low-carbohydrate diets reflects to some extent an intuitive grasp of the need for animal food. As I indicate in The Yogi Diet’s introduction, I wanted to grapple with the low-carbohydrate movement and its critique of grains and the agricultural revolution, but expected the movement to reveal itself as regressive because of the conventional dietary wisdom that de-emphasized animal foods because of potential deleterious health effects. In contrast, I found that alleged adverse effects depended on variables such as the totality of the diet and even food quality. Mixing carbohydrates and fats can quickly lead to health problems, but low-carbohydrate diets themselves like the Atkins Diet can, in fact, improve health. And then there are other considerations — like the inability of some people to generate sufficient fat, thereby needing fat from animal foods; the beneficial stimulation that meat can provide from a spiritual perspective for living in the world; and the importance of spiritual practice to keep the effect of a vegetarian diet healthy. Thus, there are many variables to consider that invalidate simplistic associations like “eat vegetarian and become more spiritual.” Such a notion, in fact, can lead to trouble.

5. Do you personally feel people should make dietary decisions based on their religion?

I would say that the religious and spiritual perspective on diet is something important for everyone to consider, namely, that diet has effects beyond those on the body on the mind and spirit as well. Yet the perspective of one religious tradition alone may be insufficient. Jainism, for example, requires vegetarianism, yet the question remains as to whether vegetarianism can healthy for everyone. Moreover, Western Christianity has largely come to ignore the significance of biblical dietary restrictions like the blood prohibition (Genesis 9: 4 and Acts 15) for keeping the vegetarian undercurrent alive. A synthetic understanding of the totality of religious, spiritual, and even secular views is the key to developing sound judgment.

6. What dietary prohibition did you find the most surprising?

The Jainist prohibitions against fermented foods to avoid harming microorganisms and against root vegetables to avoid uprooting plants and thereby harming them. As for surprise about what is allowed, or what can make something allowed, there is the indication of Swami Prahhupada (an interpreter of the Bhagavad-Gita’s dietary teaching) that spoiled foods and those cooked more than three hours previously are untouchable unless blessed (prayer trumps everything)!

7. Let’s get to the question my drunken readers want asked, what about alcohol? Is it good or bad?

Appendix B goes into detail about alcohol. Briefly, religious and spiritual thinking about alcohol is as diverse as it is about vegetarianism. Nevertheless, many weighty considerations argue against its use, particularly for spiritual seekers. One important consideration indicates that alcohol usurps ego functions, which are important for spiritual development. In this sense, alcohol can be considered to have a counter-evolutionary effect.

8. Now that “The Yogi Diet” is out, what is your next project?

As I indicate on my Goodreads author profile, I think of the The Yogi Diet as the first of an interrelated trilogy. The second, Mother Cow, will take up cow worship in “third-world” Indian culture as a reflection of the importance of lacto-vegetarianism and contrast such a devotional attitude with the treatment of farm animals including cows in “first-world” U.S. culture where they are exempt from animal cruelty laws. The third will focus on the complementary nature of reincarnation and resurrection, two afterlife teachings associated with the cultivation of grain (chapter 6 in The Yogi Diet) that are keys to realizing the vegan-vegetarian religious ideal (chapter 8).

9. What did you eat today?

For breakfast, I had a fried egg and a bowl of steel-cut oats, soaked overnight and rinsed (very important for removing antinutrients), then cooked and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, some honey and coconut sugar, shredded coconut, raisins, banana, and yogurt. This is my typical breakfast, but the grain and toppings vary. For lunch, I had a salmon burger with sauce, sauerkraut, and lettuce on a piece of whole-grain bread, along with a few raw mini-carrots (the salmon burger is untypical; a veggie burger or a rice bowl with some dairy is more typical). For dinner, I had toast with butter, miso, and tahini, a salad, and some cooked vegetables. Occasionally I eat fish, and less frequently, chicken. I am sympathetic to the vegetarian cause, but not a strict vegetarian.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Which is more important — food variety or food quality?

I have to say food quality. What’s the point of a wide variety if it tastes bland or stale?

About James Morgante:
James Morgante, MDiv (religion), MA (psychology), has worked in ministry, social services and teaching, and has been studying the relationship between spirituality and nutrition for over 30 years.
Shortly after receiving his undergraduate psychology degree, he began a pursuit of alternatives in psychology that led him to the holistic health movement in the 1970s, and to an eventual ministry focus. From 2007-2015 he taught English in China, all while maintaining his studies in vegetarianism and spirituality.

He has always been keenly interested in the subject of vegetarianism and the spiritual life, wanting to learn why some religious teachings advocate vegetarianism (yet most don’t require it), why some have an ambivalent attitude, and why some pay no attention to the subject, or even reject it. The Yogi Diet is the culmination of his studies.

James speaks to church and hospital groups. He lives in Seattle, Wash.

You can learn more here.

10 Questions with Warren Bobrow

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day! To celebrate we’ve got a special interview with author and “Cocktail Whisperer” Warren Bobrow all about rum!

1. How did you get involved with the world of cocktails and spirits?

Originally I trained to be a chef- This was back in the mid-1980’S- before recorded time really. I owned and founded a fresh pasta biz down In Charleston, SC- I lost it in Hurricane Hugo in 1989. I had bartended a few times while working as a cook- And it seemed like a good job for someone like myself who has the ‘Gift of Gab’… Fast forward past a 20-year career in banking- Back to my 50th birthday- when I went over to the Ryland Inn, located in NJ- and asked for a job as a bartender. Chris James, the Bar Manager told me he didn’t need a bartender, but he did need a bar back (not a glamorous job) and I was hired. But I had been writing about spirits, wine and food for a couple years- but I really had no idea just how hard it was! Physical Labor! Long Hours! Not Pretty! I held on for a year- and built my chops. How many cocktail writers do you know who worked as a bartender? Very few- and fewer still started at the bottom and worked their way up.

2. What is rum? How is it different from other spirits?

Rum is a fermented spirit not unlike whiskey or beer. the base ingredient, however is not grain. It is made from either sugar cane or molasses, or a combination of many sugar based ingredients- sometimes with the addition of caramel coloring and other synthetic ingredients. This is manipulated rum- unfortunately the backbone of the rum industry are industrially produced rums with profit as the motivating factor over quality. Raw rum or natural rum is much harder to find- and therefore these rums command higher prices.

Agricultural- or Agricole is made with freshly crushed or pressed sugar cane juice- is vastly different than industrially produced, molasses based rum.

3. Sometimes rum is spelled “rum” and other times “rhum”, is there a difference?

There is a massive difference. rhum- can be Agricole (Agricultural) or Industrial (Industrial). Agricole is made with freshly crushed sugar cane. The law (AOC, Appellation original Controlee) in the French islands reads that rhum agricole must be made with unfermented, freshly pressed cane juice. Industrial Rum on the other hand can be made pretty much any way possible, because it is treated as an industrial product. there isn’t a whole lot of oversight as to what is permissible in rum. With artificial coloring, added sugar and glycerin in the batch- there are very few correlations between Industrial and agricultural. Other than the base ingredient- which is, of course sugar cane! Small amounts of rum are also made from sorgum or sugar beets, but this stuff just sucks. I cannot stand the taste of this industrial spirit. Ick!

4. Do you know why we always associate rum with pirates?

Rum was an inexpensive product made with ingredients that just happened to grow incredibly well in poor soil and anemic water conditions that existed in the Caribbean Islands. Sugar cane propagates almost anywhere in both poor and rich soil. The juice is very easy to boil into a syrup that is treated to an industrial bread yeast- then, it is fermented and distilled in crudely built, copper pot stills. The result, a foul- ill-tempered spirit was just the liquid for an unwashed and stinking bunch of murderous thugs who would slaughter your crippled grandmother as easily as lighting a pipe filled with the local wacky weed. It wasn’t tobacco in their pipes you know! It was cannabis!

Wine spoiled quickly in the high heat and humidity of the Caribbean Islands, beer would sour in the high heat and whiskey wasn’t invented yet and vodka was not available in this part of the world. Gin was popular- but not as a commodity, it was a medicinal.

Sugar was a luxury item-coveted by the wealthy. Rum was easily made with the dregs left over from making sugar and is extremely durable stuff. In a barrel, it only gets better in the motion of the sea and the heat of the sun. Like the highly expensive, Madeira- (Truly enduring stuff that goes around the world on the deck of a ship to age), Rum is potent and healing and cheap!

To a pirate, it was an easy high and made weeks or months in the doldrums (the place without wind) easier to take. Being a pirate was not always attractive work. Rum made it a bit easier to chew off your foes ear or shoot all his horses before having one’s way with their women and then the children. Rum was liquid courage in the face of a wall of water in a storm, or against cannon fire at close range. Rum is refreshment after a voyage or as inner calm during a battle.

Against seasickness, rum works well as it settles the head and soothes the belly, for medicinal purposes only of course!

5. What’s your favorite way to drink rum?

Preferably in a clean glass, with a bit of coconut water ice (for anyone who has gotten stomach poisoning from bad ice) and a slice of caribbean lime plus a splash of cane sugar syrup. A Ti-Punch is what this wonderfully tasty drink is named.

6. If you were serving rum to a salty sailor, how would you serve it?

Being a salty sailor myself- I learned about rum from the stern of my Family’s Little Harbor Sailboat, so I prefer it two ways- One way it (the Ti-Punch) is made with a squeeze of lime, cane sugar syrup and rhum Agricole from Martinique. The other is a concoction named the Painkiller, liberally shaken until frosty with crushed coconut water ice, cream of coconut, fresh pineapple juice and plenty of bourbon barrel aged rum. (Naturally colored-no caramel added- maybe something from Long Pond or Monymusk- or one of the fine rums from Foursquare)

Quite refreshing after a tough sail with the sun and sweat burning your eyes and skin.

7. In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, what is your favorite pirate-y phrase?

Yar Pirates!

8. You’ve authored several books at this point, any chance of one coming out will be about rum?

That’s a very good question. I have not now pitched one to my publishers- but you never know.

9. What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing for Forbes.com and other work for the American Distilling Institute, Barrell Bourbon, Total Food Service and DrinkUpNY, along with many publications on the cannabis side of this medicinal (Folk Healing) business.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at the Magical Buffet any one question.

Do you prefer heavy, sweet rums to naturally made, unsweetened rums crafted from a dunder- Read: Wild Yeast/Authentic…?

I prefer unsweetened rums, but I do enjoy the heavy, sweet ones too.

About Warren Bobrow:
Warren Bobrow, the Cocktail Whisperer, is the author of “Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today”, “Whiskey Cocktails: Rediscovered Classics and Contemporary Craft Drinks”, “Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails: Restorative Vintage Cocktails, Mocktails & Elixirs”, “Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks & Buzz-Worthy Libations”. His most recent book is named: “The Craft Cocktail Compendium, Contemporary Interpretations and inspired twists on time honored classics”.

Bobrow has written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, The American Distilling Institute, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and many other national and global periodicals.

He has written for SoFAB Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly. He has also contributed to the Sage Encyclopedia of Food Issues and the Oxford Encyclopedia edition: Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City. Warren recently traveled to Asheville, NC to participate in their Cocktail Week. Warren attends Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and was nominated for a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award in 2013. Warren was in the Saveur Magazine “100” in 2010 and was a Ministry of Rum Judge in 2010. He most recently appeared in High Times Magazine and contributes to The Fresh Toast in Seattle.

Astrologically Inspired Cocktails

A person who worked on creating this infographic reached out to me saying that I would love it. It’s astrology and booze! Am I really that transparent?

A website called Tarot Prophet featured it, and Sophia Loren (the Tarot Prophet) must know her stuff because I’m a Gemini and the drink for Gemini involves rum! If you’re new here, rum is my favorite spirit. So as far as I’m concerned, this is 100% accurate science people!

You can view the original post in all its glory at:

http://tarotprophet.com/zodiac-cocktail-recipes

Secret Medicines from Your Garden

This book has been out for over a year. Over a year! I even read it as soon as it came out, and yet it has taken all this time to share my thoughts on it. “Secret Medicines from Your Garden: Plants for Healing, Spirituality & Magic” by Ellen Evert Hopman is still in print, so it’s still worth sharing.

Reading “Secret Medicines from Your Garden” makes you feel like the author is personally leading you on a wilderness adventure. Hopman regales you with anecdotes from her spiritual journey and herbalism training. She doesn’t just tell you about herbs and their meanings and uses, she trains you to intuit a plants purpose. Not only do you learn about the physical natural world, but Hopman discusses plant spirits, herbal astrology, and more. Of course the book is filled with ways to use all that nature has to offer such as poultices, tinctures, and food.

I would say “Secret Medicines from Your Garden” is a surprisingly engaging book, and I dare say it’s my favorite of all of Ellen Evert Hopman’s books. (And considering how many great books she’s written, that’s saying something).

Learn more here.

Supermarket Magic

Well this is a bit embarrassing. I bought a book to review because I thought it was brand new and it wasn’t until I went to the publisher’s website that I realized it was published in 2013. 2013! But the book is good, it’s still available to purchase, and it was new to me, so I’m sharing it with you! We’re going to be talking about “Supermarket Magic: Creating Spells, Brews, Potions, & Powders from Everyday Ingredients” by Michael Furie.


I love food, as my ever widening ass can attest to. Which is why I love books that let me look at food in different ways. I also liked the idea of using a supermarket to do your magical shopping. It reminds me of all the times I would buy supplies at the local dollar store. I guess what I’m saying is that it was inevitable that I would end up reading this book, and it didn’t disappoint.

Now when I picked up “Supermarket Magic” I expected it to be wholly focused on what kind of magic you can work when your local supermarket is the closest thing you have to a magical supply shop. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Furie discussed a lot of magical basics and ethics. He then divides the book up into the most frequently used categories of magic: clearing and cleansing, harmony, healing, love, lust, and beauty, luck, money, protection, and psychic ability and divination. He also includes a section about Sabbats.

In each chapter Furie discusses what is involved in the category. Items that are associated with that type of magic, and several spells and/or recipes to use. There is a shopping list at the end of each chapter listing all the items he mentioned in the chapter. I found that particularly clever. He stresses that “Supermarket Magic” isn’t a cookbook, however there are a lot of recipes for brews and potions that sound…..magically delicious. (I couldn’t help myself!) Seriously, if something is tasty AND can have potential magical benefits, why wouldn’t you want to give it a go?

One of the shopping lists.

One of the shopping lists.

With its blend of beginner and advanced ideas “Supermarket Magic” is a great addition to any magic user’s library, whether you’re just starting out, or have been working with magic for years.

You can learn more here.

And by the way, “Supermarket Sabbats”, also by Michael Furie comes out this October! You can learn more, and preorder it here.