Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Far away is the new *onrein

May 3, 2005

Maybe it comes from the fact that I’m reading up on dietary law combined with reading John Thackara’s book, In the Bubble about sustainability and design, but I’m starting to wonder if distance is the new unkosher. In Patrick Faas’ Volkskrant article titled, The prophet Mohammed’s favourite dish, (18.02.1997) about Islam’s flexible standpoint on whether one may eat ostrich and camel, I couldn’t help but wrinkle up my nose at the thought of ostrich farms far far away and poor slabs of beef having to travel first by air and then by freight truck to get to the supermarket and then our tables. According to In the Bubble we spend more time transporting ourselves to our grocery shopping than actually doing our grocery shopping. And I don’t want to bring down any wrath upon myself, but it seems that a lot of religious dietary law is based upon cultural food preferences and taboos rather than hygiene. Proof? Both Jewish and Islamic law are quite arbitrary about which foods are considered clean and unclean. I can’t help but wonder why in this day and age hygiene should have preference over sustainability when it comes to dietary law.

*Onrein means unclean in Dutch, unclean in the religious sense of the word.

debra at 5:59 | | post to

1 Comment »

  1. My understanding is that Jewish dietary law is based on what was understood to be practical hygiene when it became law. Most of the directives about what not to eat were in place to combat specific problems of bacteria. Since they didn’t have any concept of bacteria back then, there is a lot of stuff they thought was unsafe that has turned out to be safe, and a lot of stuff that was thought to be safe that is actually quite unsafe.

    Hygiene and food preparation has come a long way since then, along with science. It seems absurd to me to obey laws written to avoid problems that have since been solved. But it seems very sensible for the laws to have been in place originally.

    Comment by David Barzelay — July 9, 2005 @ 12:10

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