What’s the Beef? On Faith and Food

Lavie Tidhar @ 06-09-2010

Just what is the relationship between faith and food? Nearly every major religion (and quite a few minor ones) have dietary restrictions of one sort or another – though they’re never the same!

Jews don’t eat pork or seafood. Muslims don’t eat pork either (and don’t drink alcohol), while Hindus don’t eat beef. Christians, it seems, will eat anything (including the body of the Christ) but otherwise frown on cannibalism, while traditional Melanesian practices don’t. And everyone knows Scientologists won’t eat thetans.

Here’s a handy list, courtesy of CNN.

Does the path to true enlightenment lie in the right meal? Could a new religion be founded on a secret teaching of sacred recipes? Is God living in my stomach?

I ask myself these sort of questions all the time. Why is bacon the Jewish Kryptonite? Why did David Blaine hang from a crane inside a glass box without food and water for forty days at London Bridge, and why did people have barbecues directly below?

Someone I know in Vanuatu once met a cannibal at a party.

“What does human flesh taste like?” she asked.

“Chicken,” he said. (I’m not, in fact, making this story up).

Why does everything taste like chicken?

It’s not like I have the answers. Are some foods holier than others? Are some foods evil? Is Nigella Lawson conclusive proof that there is a God?

And what do atheists eat? What do aliens taste like?

I suspect that, one day, we’ll go to the stars. We’ll find alien planets, and land on them and, most likely, we’ll eat what we find.

Remember when Arthur C. Clarke predicted the satellite? Well, pay attention now. I am going to make a science fictional prediction.

Lavie’s Law (formulated September 7th, in the very science fictional year 2010, at around 11am): Aliens taste like chicken.

Lavie Tidhar is the author of The Bookman (Angry Robot Books) and follow-ups Camera Obscura and Night Music, both forthcoming from the same publisher. His latest book, novella Cloud Permutations, is just out from PS Publishing in the UK. His story In Pacmandu is this month’s featured fiction on Futurismic.


Three-course specials at The House Of Longpig

Paul Raven @ 09-07-2010

The lines between futurism, architecture and conceptual art continue to blur and fade (if they ever existed anywhere other than our own minds, that is); a chap called Mitchell Joachim is working on making a house from meat. Yes, a house. Made – grown, to be more precise – from in vitro tissue culture. A meat house. House made of meat. [image ganked from INHABITAT]

The In Vitro Habitat... AKA "meat house"

While we’re talking about in vitro meat, Wired UK turned over the mic to Warren Ellis, as they do on a monthly basis, and he decided to talk about cannibalism. Fans of Ellis’ reputation-making series Transmetropolitan will remember that The City was full of places where you could eat pretty much anything, all the way up (or is it down?) to cultured human flesh, and that riff gets echoed here:

… the technology is there to start generating human meat without the dubious ethical intervention of human slaughter. Which is harder than you’d think, and the artificial meat version wouldn’t have any Rohypnol precipitate in its cell structure. If there’s no human shoe-beasts involved in the butchery, where’s the problem? Show me the ethical hurdles to ordering a cultured manburger.

I demand that science do its job and allow us all to indulge in a consumer experiment: are humans the most delicious meat of all? Furthermore, I think there’s an easy way to access more funding for this goal: celebrity cell donation.

Of course, Uncle Warren is being ironic here, and has no real interest in eating human flesh, cultured or otherwise.

Probably.