Food and Culture

Food and Culture December 1, 2003

A recent discussion concerning food and culture with some friends provokes the following thoughts:

One of the points of the discussion was whether or not high quality food, attention to artistry in making food, is a product of Christian culture. When I cited France to illustrate that good food can coexist with paganism, it was suggested in response that French cuisine is an after-effect of Christian civilization, some kind of leftover of a once-Christian nation. But that doesn’t work: After all, America, England, and Scotland have been as profoundly Christian as France, and their food is hardly the model for the rest of the world. The cuisine divide in European nations seems to be between Protestant and Catholic countries, Protestant countries notable for the blandness of their food and Catholic countries noted for the richness and variety of their foods. I suspect that there is some connection here with Eucharistic doctrine, or the lack of it. Catholic peoples know from long training in the Mass that there is more to food than food, that food is not just biological fuel, while Protestants are trained by their Eucharistic doctrine and practice to regard food as something of a necessary evil. Catholics adorn the Mass, and also adorn the food on their home tables; Protestants do not adorn the Eucharist, and end up with haggis, kidney pie, and peas, lots of peas. Catholics spice up foods, while Protestant nations (especially in the UK) are noted for frugally using every last organ and giblet, even (especially?) the inedible bits.

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