Food and religion

Food24's Cathy Marston asks if food is your religion as it is hers.

by: Cathy Marston: Food24 | 28 Apr 2009

For many people – and I include myself amongst their number – food is their religion. I get more pleasure from a long family lunch in the winelands than I do from hauling myself out of bed on a Sunday morning to sing out of tune songs in my best clothes.

It’s quite ironic really since religion has been my family’s bread and butter so to speak, for the last 45 years as my father is a clergyman. But he likes a good meal as much as the next man and although I have never yet seen him miss 8 o’clock communion in favour of a bacon sandwich, I have definitely heard some very short and speedy sermons when he wants to get home in time for the Sunday roast.

Speaking of bacon sandwiches, I have many friends who don’t eat pork on religious grounds. But if anything could tempt them away from the straight and narrow, it’s a lovely, greasy bacon sandwich.

Achin' for bacon
I remember going away for a weekend with a motley assortment of friends who underwent a cultural crisis one morning when they discovered that the bacon and pork sausages were being prepared by two Jews and a vegetarian – some re-organising of the cooking roster was required with immediate effect!

Bacon also caused another memorable religious crisis in the restaurant at one time. We were serving a delicious warm baby potato salad with pancetta. One day, a lady called the manager over after a couple of mouthfuls of this and asked where the bread was. The manager explained that although it didn’t come with this salad, she would happily fetch some, but the woman insisted it was in the ingredients on the menu – ‘Look, pancetta, there you go, see?!’

The manager explained that pancetta was bacon and panini was bread, as the woman went pale and exclaimed, ‘But I’m Jewish. And I’m a vegetarian.’ At which point, and to her eternal credit, the manager looked her full in the face and said ‘Madame, it isn’t a sin if you didn’t know.’
‘Oh that’s alright then,’ she said – and carried on eating!! Cultural crisis indeed.

Personally, I am not great at giving up much in the name of religion, although I have the greatest of respect for people who do manage to do so. Some years back, I was making a sales call to an Indian restaurant in Kent. I arrived rather late in the day, not realising that it was during Ramadan and of course, everyone was starving hungry. Before I could make my apologies and leave, I had been welcomed like a long lost daughter, introduced to at least four different generations of the family and was working my way through a delicious milky porridge of some sort before we all embarked on a feast of note.

The warmth, friendliness and vivacity of that family will stay in my mind forever and I will always hold onto this as the real face of Islam whenever the news reports suggest otherwise.

And that is why I will never feel guilty about praising my Maker with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a nice plate of food on a Sunday. In this day and age there are too many people trying to use religion to drive a wedge between people and cause division.

So I would like to suggest that we should all think more about our stomachs than our souls, surround ourselves with as much delicious food and as many friends and family as possible and just have a really good time! After all, getting on better with each other in this life can only bode well for our chances in the next one, and I can’t see anyone’s God arguing with that!

Is food your religion? How do you like to celebrate it?

Cathy Marston is the owner of The Nose Restaurant & Wine Bar and a fulltime, professional eater and drinker. Any food, any drink, anywhere, anytime...

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