One Sunday morning last month by accident I caught a CBS special titled “Food, Faith & Culture” which looked at the relationship between food and faith in three world religions: Judaism, Islam and Sikhism.
Padres, an innovative kosher restaurant located in Brooklyn, N.Y., owned by Chef Moshe Wendel and his wife Shana was featured to represent Judaism. Chef Wendel is classically trained and before opening his own place he spent his career working in well regarded non kosher French restaurants. As the couple became more observant in their religion, the need to make the transition in their professional life became apparent, and in 2010 they opened Padres which serves kosher French food based on the laws set forth from the Old Testament, or Torah with an American twist.
Yvonne Maffei, a home chef, food writer and founder of My Halal Kitchen.com based in Chicago, IL was featured to represent Islam. Yvonne is of Hispanic and Italian descent, and was raised as a Catholic; she converted to Islam as an adult. She created the web site to share halal friendly recipes to dispel the myths that only Middle Eastern food is acceptable. Yvonne adapts Italian, Mexican and Scandinavian dishes for anyone looking to eating halal foods.
This segment really intrigued me because as Harlem’s Muslim population has increased significantly in the last ten years, so has the number of street food vendors and African food markets that prominently display that they sell “halal” food. “Halal” means that the food is allowed based upon the Qu’ran and Hadith, the holy books of Islam. The butcher interviewed during the segment specified that the meats he sells are cared for as well as mercifully killed based upon Islamic dietary laws. So halal also governs how food is cared for and/or slaughtered and prepared. Now I have a better understanding why observant Muslims don’t want to purchase their meats from our “conventional” food markets; the animals are caged and fattened up to mass produce quicker. In addition some of our other food items are not produced the way that God intended; they are genetically engineered.
The last segment visited the Sikh Cultural Society in Queens, NY which is the oldest Sikh house of worship on the East coast. In its langar, or common kitchen freshly prepared vegetarian food is served twice a day, seven days a week for free. The food is prepared by volunteers who cook, cook and serve the meals based upon a religious practice that dates back to the 15th century. Serving others is a central tenet of the Sikh faith, and every one eats sitting on the floor. One of the religious leaders commented how you could be unemployed and/or homeless, but you will never be hungry because you can get at least two free meals a day at the langar. The person eating next to you would never know.
So how does your faith and/or religious beliefs influence how or what foods you consume? One practice that I started this summer was to abstain from eating seedless fruits. I read Genesis 1:11 – 12 and the message I took away from these verses is that God made all fruits with seeds. So those seedless grapes, and watermelons that are sold are genetically engineered by man. I will admit they taste good, but they are not what God intended.
I also stopped eating the huge chicken wings that some restaurants prepare very well because I want to see the size of the rest of the chicken that they came off of. The wings are a little smaller than baby turkey wings so what type of cross breed is the chicken? Food manufacturers are tinkering with our food supply too much with out disclosing any information to the public. But that is next month’s column.
Go to this link http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7423904n&tag=cbsnewsLeadStoriesAreaMain to view the show for yourself, and please let me know how it’s got you considering your faith and what you eat and why.