Eating Local Food with the Ancestors

There’s been a small, but perceivable, shift in my thinking since our first Noumenia. A shift that revolves around food that circles around to my ancestors’ conversion to Christianity. How did I get from Point A to Point B?  Let’s do this in a list-order stream-of-consciousnesses style, shall we?

  • Eating more locally grown fresh food has been on my mind a lot for several years. After all, I am completely surrounded by orchards, vineyards, and farms that grow everything we need. The question is, “How do I get a hold of all the fresh produce goodness that literally grows across the street?”. I found the answer on this website, aptly named Local Harvest, and better yet, I was able to convince Gaius we need to do this. So, starting at the beginning of next month, I am going to sign us up to get a box of fresh seasonal produce from a local farm weekly. It’s a small step, but an important one. I’ve also found farms that make olive oil, sell nuts and other fruits, and a meat farmer. Now, the meat thing will have to wait because 1) it’s $8 a pound, eep! and 2) it’s set up to store the meat in your freezer. I’m not a huge fan of freezer meat so it might end up being a waste for us. Gaius did agree that maybe we can look into buying fresh meat from them for special occasions (Noumenia, anyone?).  This small step we are taking to eat more locally falls neatly into this little gem of a challenge…
  • Unprocessed Food October. Of course, I found out about this at the very end of October, but that doesn’t mean we as a family cannot do it next month. I ran across a similar idea about a year ago spear headed by one mom and found it inspiring. I’m starting to be more aware of what I feed the family and see this as a logical next step in creating a healthful home. Looking through my pantry, we do have processed foods that can get tossed. Thadd is already not too crazy with the meals-in-a-box  I fix when I’m too busy/tired to actually cook something.
  • My crazy ultimate idea of having an unprocessed kitchen would be taken to the extreme of making all of my flour (need to figure out the correct ratio for the best bread flour), making all of our pasta, and baking all of our bread. It’s a huge task and one that I’m clear-sighted enough to know that it won’t happen over night. But my Christmas list is already forming to help me reach my goal: pasta making accessories for my pasta roller (and drying racks), an oat roller, and whole oats.  All of this thinking about what is processed food, what isn’t. What should be in my kitchen and what shouldn’t be gets me thinking about…
  • Kosher/Halal/ and other religious dietary restrictions and what that looks like for a Polytheist. Recently I had a really interesting conversation with some Sisters about this very subject which led to some new knowledge (such as: did you know in some customs that “meat” is defined as an animal that creates milk? Therefore chicken and fish aren’t categorized as “meat”) on the subject. Of course, it got me thinking about what a religious diet would look like for a modern Pagan/Polytheist. I cannot speak for everyone, but here are some of my thoughts:
  1.  Separation of blood and veggies/fruit. For me, “meat” is the product of any animal that produces blood. And in my mind, blood should be kept far removed from non-blood producing food like fruits and veggies. How far removed? Should there be separate dishes, utensils for their handling? For me, I wouldn’t object to that.  Should they not be ingested during the same meal? Well, no. We all need fruits and veggies with our meals. That would be silly (and unhealthy). I would love to see meat drained of all its blood before consuming.
  2. Eating as much fresh/locally grown food as possible. It’s healthier, fresher, and supports our local farmers/local economy. Also, growing as much of our food as possible is good. This also goes for making as much of our food as we can from scratch.

What would you add?

With the talk swirling around dietary restrictions and with Dios de los Muertos coming upon us, my thoughts naturally turn to my ancestors and I find myself pondering

  • What if ancestors converted to monotheism willingly? I know, it sounds like a huge leap to go from food to Christian conversion  but I’ll try to walk you through my thinking process.

Kosher and Halal are dietary restrictions of two of the three major monotheistic religions. Using them as a template, I’ve often wondered if a devoted, pious, orthodox/orthoprax Pagan/Polytheist should adopt a similar system. Every time I pose the question to Them (namely Hera and Hermes), I get the answer “You do not come from the Desert People, but from the Mediterranean. Their ways are not your ways.” 

Pretty straight forward answer, really. From what I get, if I wish to have some sort of system in place, make one that makes sense to me in the here and now and not one that was created for a culture that I am not a part of (neither genetically nor spiritually).

That got me thinking about the people I do come from. Namely, they were Northern European (Norse) with some evidence that they once were Greek and Roman. I do not come from the Desert People, and yet, at some point in my families’ histories they adopted said people as their own. Was it by force? Was it by conviction?

Does it really matter? Yes, in a way it does matter. We are being called to honour our Gods; the Gods that many of our ancestors worshiped before Christianity (After all, every Christian cannot be directly descended from the Hebrews that converted). When you got that far back, you have thousands of ancestors that can span the world (especially if you are biracial).  Some of your ancestors would have converted through true conviction while other ancestors were converted at sword point. We, as Pagans/Polytheists, put a lot of lip service honouring our Pagan/Polytheist ancestors and the ones forced into conversion. But, how many people stop and think about the ancestors who truly believed in the new religion from the East? Shouldn’t their convictions be just as honoured, acknowledged, respected? I think so.

I’ll never know the stories of how my families became Christian, but I’m fairly certain there were at least a few that were true believers. Still, I don’t come from the Desert People, therefore I am not held to a restrictive diet. That doesn’t mean that I, and all of us, shouldn’t start thinking about what we eat. If our bodies are temples, let’s make sure we only give it the very best offerings and libations we can.

Extra linkage love:

Interested in learning more about religious diets? Check out EatOcracy.

What are your thoughts on this? 

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5 thoughts on “Eating Local Food with the Ancestors

  1. I always enjoy this conversation! In our household, We are incredibly lucky where we live to access to a number of Farmer’s Markets throughout the better part of the year, as well as the options for CSAs. We are less lucky in that our dietary needs are, heh, many and varied and contrary, and our ideal food-buying guidelines have had to be loosened up a bit because of that. Beth can’t eat much in the way of fresh greens, so a lot of the early spring and summer foods aren’t possible for her. So: we buy from local farms what can buy from them, we buy our meat from local farms (again, lucky — they provide the meat for two of the grocery shores in our immediate area, and since it’s not freezer meat, it’s smaller portions and more immediately affordable).

    We eat way less meat than the average American, too. Our goal — which we don’t always meet, depending on other immediate factors — is to have meat for festival feasts, and the immediate left overs, and to make do without meat for the rest of the time. When faced with the option, we eat organically and locally, but on our scale of importance, eating locally ranks higher than eating organically.

    As for conversion — I agree that it’s impossible to know. Even where conversion has a more bloody, and more recent history, I bet there are folks who converted peacefully, too. I know a lot of heathens have a very dark view of Christianity considering the nature of conversion in northern Europe — and I certainly don’t agree with some of the folks responsible being cannonized — but at the same time, such an outlook is sort of useless, or worse, to bring forward into the present. Sorry, but, I can’t look at people like my grandfather who, as far as I’m concerned was the epitome of being a decent human being and, who, was Catholic and who found strength to being such a great human being through his devotion to his god, and then dismiss Christianity as a bad evil boogeyman. Our ancestor devotion in our household involves elements of both Christianity and Judaism. :)

    I’m interested in stamping out people being forced to *anything* in the present; can’t really change the past, you know? Other than by not repeating it . . .

  2. Avoiding pork protected from trichinosis.

    Also ancient times notwithstanding, Israel is theeee most modern country in the middle east in terms of democracy and science and technology.

  3. SJ: That may be so, but singling out trichinosis and pork isn’t really logical to explain the Kosher/Halal ban. After all, pretty much any mammal can get infected by parasitic nematodes (including the one that causes trichinosis), so why single out the pig? As far as anyone knows, the ban on pork might equally have started out of compassion to the poor pig, which can’t effectively thermoregulate through sweat and so relies on mud evaporation when it’s hot (and mud and deserts don’t really seem to go together, do they?) Or it could have been simple pragmatics as the pig eats a disproportionate amount in regards to its value as a food source in desert regions. Or it could have been any combination of a score of reasons. Food choices are complicated.

    The Amazing Cora: I totally hear you on baking the household’s bread. I’m able to make and bake about 80% of what my house eats now thanks to the book “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” and its subsequent publications. All the doughs are no-knead and long-storing. I had a little bit of a learning curve in how to handle the dough, since it’s so sticky, but after about four batches I had my process down. It really does take all of maybe 4 minutes now for me to make the dough, and perhaps a minute more to shape my loaves. Now, about an hour after I get home from work (shaping a loaf immediately when I get home and letting it come to room temp and do a final ‘rise’), I pop bread in the oven and have it ready for dinner and the next day’s toast and sandwiches.

  4. This may seem like a segue, but it’s not intended as one. I think in general, we enjoy good alcohol and food more. There is a heavy tradition of enjoying feasting in my religion, whereas I feel like the Christian relationship with food is one that is sort of fundamentally unhealthy — there is all this GUILT around food and feasting and wine. All this fear about meat and overindulgence and this anxiety. And I think it creates an emphasis on unsatisfying foods which leads to physical satiation but not mental satiation which leads to the very thing they were trying to avoid: gluttony. I really do feel like, in a lot of ways, it’s a contributing factor to some of the obesity problem in westernized countries.

    I think Halal and Kosher and pretty much any religion-based food laws probably did come from early connections between some foods and illness. I think it also came from understanding that certain animal’s poo would create bad food if used for fertilizer, which meant the animal itself was unclean. It probably also took into account that some animals had use beyond food, but that use was short lived but could still be taken advantage of. In lieu of real understandings of sanitation, these rules HELPED. Also, fasts seem to be scheduled during the low-food times of the year, which makes sense — you want to stretch what you have during the time when winter stocks are running out and spring plantings begin to bear fruit. Basically it was an early system of ensuring adequate nutrition and food safety, in my mind.

    In norther climates, where food was abundant in the short summer months (and therefore, was probably harvested end eaten in the same week and therefore spoilage was not a concern) and the rest of the months freezing temperatures or at least refrigerator worthy temperatures were reliable, such elaborate rules were likely not necessary in the same way as in the middle east/warmer climes.

    • I am sure that meat is not the only thing you can build a thinking mcihane from. And I think it’s very likely, in fact, that our cultural grandchildren who explore the universe will not be made from meat, and that the intelligences they meet on the way won’t be either. But I think that the only sort of intelligence that can arise from cosmic dust without intelligent intervention will be the sort that’s made from something that’s evolved – something more like meat than like computers.Thus my remark: these aliens may not be meat, and they may have been made by non-meat intelligences, but somewhere in their distant past meat made their ancestors.

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